Chapter 4: In which the M rating disclaimer begins to become appropriate. You have been warned.


I guess my outburst must have been visible on my face, because as soon as Alannaria saw me, she ran up to me and gave me a hug.

"Tarania! If I had known that bringing up your brother would have made you go off like that, then I wouldn't have brought it up!" she said, not talking to me as much as she was talking to the top of my head. I felt claustrophobic, and I squirmed out of her grip.

"Leave her alone for now, Alannaria," Sakeran said. Alannaria nodded and skipped into the crowd, no doubt looking for another person to socialize with. She was so happy… it made me jealous that she could stay so cheerful even when one of her friends had been crying so much.

"What's happened to her, brother? Did she find someone better than her?" a voice dripping with venom said from behind me. I turned around and glared at Sakeran's brother. He laughed at me, and I felt my cheeks grow slightly warm.

"Hello, Kaselemar," Sakeran said spitefully.

"I hope you don't mind that I've stopped by to talk," Kaselemar drawled. Sakeran made a motion to say something, but stopped. Kaselemar looked me over. He had the same emerald hair as Sakeran, but he kept it short. His eyes were narrow, and he always seemed to be glaring.

"So this is the girl that defeated Rethian," he said, almost respectfully. "It's sad to think that she's been defeated already."

"She wasn't fighting," Sakeran said dismissively.

"Oh," Kaselemar said. His face twisted into a sick grin. "I suppose you'd know all about that, wouldn't you."

"Kaselemar!"

"There's no need to get all protective about it," Kaselemar said, almost egging Sakeran on. Sakeran's fists were clenched by this point.

"We weren't having sex," Sakeran said, trying his best not to lose his temper.

"If you say so," Kaselemar said. "You still haven't learned, brother. There are only two things that a woman is good for, fucking and protecting us." He turned to face me. "I'd say this one's probably a good example for both."

I wanted to do something to make him be quiet, but I was certain that anything violent would be frowned upon in Astranaar. Thankfully, I had managed to maintain a straight face.

"Were you expecting me to react to that, or are you just standing expectantly for no reason?" I asked. Kaselemar laughed.

"Is that the best comeback you've got?" he asked. "I swear, if Sakeran didn't insist it were you, I'd never believe you were the same girl that we met at Ratchet."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said apologetically. "My creativity is somewhat limited when I don't have men gawking at my breasts. Perhaps if you were to start staring I'd be able to come up with a better comeback."

When Kaselemar dropped his eyes, I slapped him. He looked at me in shock, but he quickly started grinning again.

"You bitch," he said in mock scorn. "Didn't your mother teach you that attacking an incapacitated enemy isn't honorable?"

"You'd have just done the same," I said.

"Right you are," Kaselemar said with pride. "You're more fun to talk to when you've got your dignity to defend."

"More than just my dignity is going to be at stake if you don't leave," I said.

"What, you think that you can threaten me? I may not be able to match Rethian in a fight, but I am no pushover. I'm twice as good with words than Rethian could ever hope to be, and I'm thrice as cunning." He was smiling conceitedly, very sure of himself.

"With Rethian's tact, I'm sure that you could do whatever you pleased, if you truly are thrice as cunning," I said sarcastically.

"In a manner of speaking, of course. If I were only thrice as good, I wouldn't be very good at all, would I?" Kaselemar asked.

"Tell that to Rethian," I said.

"Do you have a grudge, my dear lady?" he asked, putting emphasis on the last word as if it were some sort of a curse.

"For you, I couldn't resist," I said.

"You're not the first, and you won't be the last," he said. "I'll be saving a special place for you, though, weasel."

"Satyr."

"Vagabond."

"Bastard."

"Slut."

I hesitated. Kaselemar laughed poisonously. "I'm so happy that there are more words to insult a woman than there are to insult a man." He walked away before I could say anything more.

"How could anyone act like that?" I said, turning to face Sakeran. "I've met some crude people in the Eastern Kingdoms… but no one like Kaselemar. I didn't even think a night elf could act like that…"

He looked at me, somewhat confused. "You're talking about night elves as if you aren't one of them," he said.

My heart skipped a beat. I didn't want to believe that the humans in the Eastern Kingdoms had affected me this much. It just wasn't right. I was a night elf, a kaldorei, not a human! Humans were arrogant, and they couldn't care less about anything that happened outside of their own borders! Kalimdor was a land of mystery to them. Many of them didn't even understand the magnitude of even just dabbling in arcane magic!

"Tarania…"

I looked up at Sakeran. He looked concerned. "What is it?" I asked, my voice cracking.

"I'm sorry," he said.

I put a hand up to my face, and it came back wet. "It's not your fault," I muttered.

"I really shouldn't have brought it up," Sakeran said. "I shouldn't have mentioned it, especially after Kaselemar and making you talk about Therinan."

"You didn't make me talk…" I said. "I needed to tell somebody, and you are understanding."

"Thank you," Sakeran said. "You should know that Kaselemar usually isn't like this. He wasn't like this before the Sundering."

The thought of Kaselemar not being an utter bastard was alien to me. For all the time that I had known him, he had only been rude. Granted, I hadn't known him for long, but what Sakeran said only seemed to confirm my opinion of him.

"I feel like the Emerald Dream did something to him, and not for the better. I haven't heard of anyone else being changed like this, but there is always Malfurion to think of…" Sakeran continued.

"What happened to Malfurion?" I asked.

Sakeran spared me any surprised looks, thankfully. He knew that this was something I couldn't have known. "Malfurion Stormrage is trapped in the Emerald Dream. The druids in the Cenarion Circle are baffled as to why," he said.

I blinked. "This is startling news…" I said.

"I'll tell you more about it later," Sakeran said. "Before the pact with the dragon aspects was made, Kaselemar was different. He was cunning, yes, and he loved to fool with people. After he woke up, though, his jokes took on a more sinister taste. Instead of making people laugh, he started laughing at them behind his words. He would find a person's weakness, and pick them apart slowly. If they tried to defend themselves, it was all the better for him, because then he could make them feel even worse when he won."

"It's hard to imagine that anything like that would happen to somebody because of the Emerald Dream," I said.

"Yes, yes it is. I'm sure there's some other explanation as to why he's changed for the worse," Sakeran said. "Still, I wonder…"

"It's probably something for the druids to wonder about," I said. "Not to be hard on you or anything."

"Yes, I know," Sakeran said.

I noticed that people were beginning to file out of the room, down some stairs.

"I think that the dancing is actually about to start now," I said.

Sakeran nodded. "Come on. You'll feel much better when you've been dancing for a while."

I walked close by Sakeran as we went down the stairs. It seemed a bit warmer down here, and it was more brightly lit. The stairway led down to a giant hall, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, tables to each side with food on them, and a wide open space obviously set aside for dancing. The walls were ordained with weapons, and I could easily make out bows, moonglaives, warglaives and moon swords. It definitely had a more ornate feel to it than the rest of the hall. A group of players was set up at the end of the hall, and it looked like they were beginning to play a song.

"Let's dance, Tarania," Sakeran said. As the song started, a feeling of nostalgia took me. I knew this song… I had danced to it before, when I was a child…

I went with Sakeran to the floor. He took my hand and put his other hand on my back. As we started dancing, I closed my eyes. I was finally home.