Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto, the Warcraft series belong to Blizzard Entertainment and (to my knowledge) the idea of the following crossover belongs to General Grievous.
Chapter 2: The Devil to pay
They sat in relative silence, the three of them; Naruto, Jaina and Aegwynn.
Occasionally, Naruto munched on some harder vegetable or clanged his silverware and the sound practically echoed in the vast dining chamber. Jaina ate her soup with immense gracefulness that came with being born a noblewoman. Aegwynn simply looked amused as the young man on the other side of the table pushed his plate to the one side of the table, picked up the salad and started munching anew.
Naruto raised an eyebrow as he brought forth his fork, hanging from which was a piece of chopped vegetable. "What did we call this thing again?"
Jaina smiled politely, patience straining. "Cucumber."
The ninja tried emulating the word, but between Jaina's lighter than his accent and sheer strangeness of the word, found that he could not. Forgetting about the subject already, he brought another plate in front of him; this one filled with various meat delicacies, and resumed eating. He did not care about possible poisons or drugs they might had slipped into his food – he smelt none of the most usual ones, and even if he did, his immune system rendered him just that to poisons; immune.
When they had first brought him here, Naruto could not exactly relate to them. Where they really so trusting? It did not make any sense. Just because he had saved a girl from a bunch of fish-men did not mean that he had good intentions; Naruto knew from experience. Once, when the war had first escalated, he had caused an accident so that he could save the would-be victim and get closer to the target's father – the former, long-dead damiyo. It had involved a carriage, one of Naruto's clones and a spoilt girl that seemed ready to give herself to him for his heroic acts alone. A girl who had insisted that "he can't be bad, daddy! We just have to reward him!" Naruto was not proud of poisoning every person involved in that banquet and then making a bold escape as a dead body, but there was no choice about it. The damiyo had been playing at both ends of the table and selling precious steel to both Kiri and Konoha, and if an innocent -if mislead- girl had to die along with the rest of the traitors, then that's the way it was.
The Jinchuuriki made a spectacle to take a whiff of the tasty sausages in front of him, but in reality detected four more men hiding in the room. He did not smell any poisons in their weapons, though. An invisibility technique mastered to perfection Naruto could understand – giving him an additional chance to leave the room alive he could not.
"So," Naruto started, "do you think we should lay our cards on the table? If anything, we might reach a point of understanding just what is going on, right?"
Jaina nodded. "You are right, of course. Delaying this will take us nowhere. So, I woke up this morning only to find out that…"
As she told her half-truths, Jaina thought back to how her day had really started.
"Focus, Jaina. I know you can do it." Aegwynn's voice seemed to come from everywhere around the archmage. A mere mind trick, but it was unnerving to hear the elder woman's ethereal voice whisper in the solace of her tower. The windows had been closed for the exercise, dousing the top floor of Jaina's house and headquarters in darkness. The blond sorceress mumbled her response, blowing a lock of stray hair out of her blue eyes, and strengthened her concentration.
"It can be attainable, that much I know, Aegwynn." Jaina admitted to her unofficial teacher. "But my certain affinity to magic seems to turn everything against me."
Aegwynn stepped into view, huffing in annoyance. She was clad in an indigo robe that concealed her impressive figure from foreign eyes, and kept an ivory cloak draped over her shoulders. Her snow-white hair cascaded down her back with the usual rubies she kept in her hair present. Her pupil-less eyes were locked with hers, and she had a smirk of derision in her purple lips. "Your affinity to magic? No need to disgrace yourself. I am certain that a person of your standing and power can find better excuses in order to not light a candle."
Jaina rolled her azure eyes. "You don't have to ridicule me."
Aegwynn smiled almost maternally. The elder woman rarely did that before she had met her, Jaina knew. "It makes reaping your rewards sweeter and you know it." The Magna teased. "Now focus and do as you are told."
Jaina resumed her spellwork, or rather lack thereof. They had been at it all morning, with Aegwynn waking her up and telling her that today's exercise would be lighting a candle without using spellwork but sheer force of will. Was Jaina to say anything at all a full minute prior or after the candle lit itself would render the exercise null and they –she- would have to go at it again, this time with Jaina's masqueraded chamberlain making the process even harder. Jaina had laughed and thought that she would breeze through the exercise, but found out that wishing fire out of nothing was close to impossible without the necessary verbal and somatic spellwork. The variables involved were causing her migraines. Still, the blond witch was not one to disappoint. She was still sitting on the floor, legs crossed and fingers entwined in almost a spiritual preparation to a prayer. The cold of the season had crept through the windowsills, and Jaina once more wished that Aegwynn had allowed her to dress herself before insisting on their beginning the exercise.
With a blink, Jaina banished useless thoughts out of her head and delved deeply into her own mind, searching for an excess reserve of energy that she could fling against the candle, wishing for the damn thing to light up and spare her the feeling of humiliation she felt whenever she failed Aegwynn's exercises. For a brief second, there was only a cold Jaina in the middle of her bedroom, clad in only the most necessary. It took her less than a second to reduce her surroundings to a Jaina in the middle of a room. Even less to reduce her mind to a primal state that could only be described as somewhat similar to what the Night Elf druids referred to as 'delving into the Emerald Dream'.
The main difference between her ways –a wizard's through and through- and a druid's was that she did not send herself outward in another ream of existence but rather outward, in the 'real' world. She could feel everything around her; from Aegwynn's heartbeat to the soft yet sturdy material of her mattress to the unyielding wood of her bed. Outside of the room, Jaina's bodyguards were chatting about their former night's ventures. Underneath her, in the libraries, a high elf mage hummed lightly as he tried to decide what book to study from. The archmage felt Aegwynn's impatient gaze.
"Do not let astral projecting daze you so, girl. There are dangers roaming at this place that you could not even dream of. If you only knew how close you were venturing to the Twisted Nether…" Aegwynn reprimanded. Jaina nodded before remembering that the Magna could only feel her presence and actions in the room with her magic; she could not see her. Reasoning that delaying any further would not sum to less scolding, Jaina reached the candle with her disembodied hand…
Not normal, no – far from it, fire burning and everlasting and shimmering and vile, a behemoth in size and a demon in nature.
-bursting outward, eating and consuming-
-roaring and staggering, the fire found her-
-reaching for her-
She had faced nothing like this, and she was scared, and she wanted to call for her father but her father was dead, because she had killed him.
The motions, the shapes, they all gave way to the sun that was the flames, and she knew that nothing could save her.
-barred beyond a cage-
A young man in the middle of the swamp.
Jaina realized that she was crying like she never had before. Despite feeling the fires of an evil that had just threatened to consume Azeroth itself, she shivered like pure ice was running through her veins. She was so tired… Arms enveloped her and kept her close, white hair falling from above to obscure her vision. Aegwynn was warm and attractive and she was slowly becoming herself as the Magna undid the mayhem she had caused with her terrified burst of magic. The entire room was frozen and snow was lazily drifting down on the two women's forms, obscuring them.
"And to think," Aegwynn mattered, "that we are nearing spring."
The hysteric woman in her arms, a contrast to her usual demeanor, snickered; soon the amused sound turned into a full blown laughter that carried a hint of madness in it. "Jaina, I need you to focus." the Magna reprimanded. "Whatever it is you saw, I felt. An evil that rivals Sargeras just walked into this world and it falls up to us to do something about it."
A hint of enchanting magic in her words and soon the Archmage of Theramore was hugging her back as she finally became herself. "Thank you. You are of course right, Aegwynn. Summon the Spellbreakers; we're going to go investigating. Just-" Jaina's lip quivered as the last throws of her paroxysm dissipated, "-just give me a moment to ready myself." The frost had disappeared, and the temperature had returned to normal – it was as if Jaina had never unleashed her magic against her bedroom. The Magna was subtle in her magic, but still powerful.
Aegwynn gave her a motherly smile and walked out of the room, swiftly closing the door behind her and barking orders to the two guards standing outside.
Jaina thanked the woman for her detachment. If Duree was here, she would coo over her, never realizing the threat that had just washed over her. Jaina shakily stood, summoning her robe and cloak to her with but a wave of her hand. She dressed herself, something of a redeeming move after what she had just witnessed, and picked up her staff. She walked out to find Aegwynn and six of the finest elven warriors, all of them clad in their crimson plate armor, waiting for her. For a moment, a brief fear passed through her –would she and a mere handful of men survive this?- but she made it go away with her jaw's clenching. If the demon-like presence was still out there and it did, in fact, possess the immensity she had felt, it would have been unable to conceal it.
The feeling of weakness disappeared and she was yet again the authoritative force of Theramore. Without a warning she moved her fingers vaguely around the area in which they all stood. A bright blue rune appeared underneath their feet, and when the light reached its zenith, they disappeared, Jaina's teleporting circle working wonders to bring them to where they needed to go. Jaina dreaded at what she would find. Not even Archimonde had wielded such raw power, the likes of which she had just witnessed. If such power was unleashed in Azeroth… And yet, the Archmage walked tall…
Right into the middle of a slaughterhouse.
It was not the dead murlocs that had disturbed Jaina.
It was the calm, precise brutality in which they had been maimed. No demon could match such exactitude. In the midst of it all sat a young man with blond, wild hair and vivid blue eyes. He was drenched in swamp water, Jaina knew, and sported three ragged marks on each of his cheeks, giving him an almost feline quality. He was clad in simple, black clothes, and wore above them an also black vest. The most peculiar item in his attire was his headband – it sported a metallic plating on the place of the forehead, on which was a swirling symbol similar to…
He was embracing a young girl, who was shaking with fear – and with good reason. A young girl which was quite familiar to Jaina. "Melissa?"
"Jaina!" Melissa shocked the young man by breaking off the embrace and running towards the sorceress, a timid grin on her face. She fell on Jaina and held on to her, with the blond woman awkwardly trying to comfort the crying girl.
The young man in the middle of the slaughter got up and looked around him, noticing first the two bold women and then the Elves behind them. He took interest in the warriors' lean frames, bright blue eyes and long, slender ears, as well as heavy armors and vicious-looking swords. "Somehow," he muttered, "I don't think I'm in Fire Country anymore."
"I see." Naruto exclaimed as he patted his full stomach. The chamberlain looked aghast from watching him eat. He grinned playfully at her and turned his attention back to the owner of the tower they were currently in. "So you detected this… disturbance in the force? And that's why you came looking?"
Jaina chuckled at Naruto's slaying of the Arcane Arts' description. "It wasn't just that, Naruto. Practically every man and woman on this island felt your… arrival. And I fear that there are others," Naruto could understand that Jaina didn't mean the good guys by the way she said that last part, "who have felt it as well." Jaina leaned forward, placing her elbows on the table. "Now, that said, I would appreciate an explanation. I came looking for a demon the likes of which the world has never seen and instead I found you."
Naruto sighed. Should he tell her? Jaina looked trustworthy and experienced enough to handle just a delicate matter easily. But there was always the possibility of her attacking him, and having seen what she did to the swamp earlier, he was not sure that he could take her on. He scratched his cheek absently. "Fine. But I tell my secret to only you two. The guards will have to leave."
Jaina appeared surprised at his knowing of the invisible Spellbreakers around the room, while Aegwynn seemed appreciative of Naruto's bold statement. The Magna nodded to the leader of the guards standing on the opposite side of her point in the room, and at once the spell dissipated, leaving behind four startled High Elves, who left the room easily, whispering between them.
"It's all us know, Naruto." Jaina said, and the Jonin nodded, wondering briefly of whether his rank still existed in this place. Meanwhile, he thought of his first impression of the two women in front of him.
"It all begun when a Demon Fox attacked my home village…"
"So, what is it that we're missing?" Lorena asked. She was clad in her lieutenant's armor, Theramore's golden anchor blazing on her tabard. Her short red hair rustled in the sea breeze as she walked, her iron boots clanging hollowly on the pebble-covered street. Her piercing brown eyes seemed to investigate everything around her, including the shaky soldier that walked alongside her in her way to Jaina's tower.
"Well, we have the insignia… Doesn't that speak for itself?" The young man asked. Lorena noted that he was half her age. She could imagine that he had probably never seen what she had faced, never been more terrified than he was being right then… She felt envious of him, for some reason. What she had witnessed in that tavern was atrocious, surely, but it was nothing that could make her lose her lunch.
Something that the boy next to her could not say for himself.
The guards in front of the tower saluted her hastily and she halfheartedly returned the gesture alongside the young man. "You are no longer needed," she told him as she entered the tower, "go home and rest." Lorena wished she could remember the poor lad's name. He seemed like he could use a confidence boost right then.
Climbing through the stairs, she reached the tower's main room just as four Spellbreakers walked out. "What's going on?" She practically barked, surprising the Elves.
"Lieutenant." One of the High Elves spoke. "Lady Proudmoore has a… visitor. It is not recommended for you to enter right… Hey!" Lorena had pushed him aside and entered the room halfway through the Elf's speech. The door opening surprised Jaina and a blond man the Lieutenant could not identify, but the Magna did not even notice, caught up in her thoughts as she was.
"Lorena." Jaina said quietly. "What's wrong?"
"There has been a murder in the Naut's Dance, my Lady." Lorena offered. "Normally, that would not catch your attention so immediately, but…" Now even the stranger paid attention to what the soldier was saying. Lorena breathed deeply, suddenly realizing that her words would stir the waters in a very unfavorable fashion. "…but the victim bore marks of the Searing Blade, and died when thousands of insects hatched inside of him."
Author's Notes: I apologize for the delay – exams held me up, and when my exams are making a movie (being a director and all), I can't say I had a lot of time to devote to writing. When I did start writing, well, the result is pretty clear, no? Anyhow, I can't say that this doesn't shake the foundations. What did you guys think of this chapter? Feedback is required but appreciated.
Btw, if anyone could give me Lorena's accurate description, I'd appreciate it - I've lost my Cycle of Hatred book and can't remember what she looks like for the life of me. :P