"We shall send these fiends back to Arthas in pieces!"
Illidan Stormrage's voice echoed above the din of the fierce battle which raged across the frozen wasteland of the Dragonblight. Kael'thas was racing behind his master, barely able to keep up with the half-demon's bursts of preternatural speed while hurling arcane fire at the undead at every turn. There was a full two score of them, raining shadowy fire and at times even corpses upon the Blood Elf base, but the gifted mage and his demon hunter master were making quick work of them, flashing warglaives and arcane fury at any that would stand against them. Kael had never felt so invincible--nay, so alive! At his Master's side, nothing would stand before his might! At last, they seemed to cut through the entirety of the force. Or so the Prince of the Sin'dorei thought.
"Master!" Kael shouted in alarm, when a gargoyle came hurtling down from atop a nearby cliff, darting toward the demon hunter. Enraged, the Elf snapped his arm in the creature's direction and chanted quickly, sending twisting pillars of flame from the palm of his hand, and incinerated the beast. It dropped to crumbling, smoking rubble before Illidan's feet, and he turned back to briefly smile at Kael.
"Well done, my young prince," he almost purred at the mage, and Kael flashed a wicked grin, filled with pride. Before Kael could react, however, his master's expression turned grim in a flash, and Illidan vaulted over him, casting a great shadow with his sprawling wings. What followed was a quick succession of unseen blows followed by a sickening crunching sound. Kael spun around to see him standing over the desiccated corpse of an undead fiend, its head cleanly severed some yards away. "Don't let your guard down," Illidan growled while rolling a broad, muscled shoulder. "I would rather have you in one piece when we reach the traitor prince."
"Yes, Master," Kael replied somewhat sheepishly.
"Your Highness!" a voice suddenly called out, and Kael turned to see one of his battle medics, a young priestess of the House Dawnhaven, running towards them. She saluted crisply, then kneeled before them. "Our scouts have at last located Arthas' trail. He's heading toward a pass in the cliffs to the north, with a large force of the Lich King's cultists, and in the company of some sort of great, monstrous spider."
Kael furrowed his brow, deep in thought, pondering the priestess' words. "A new ally, then...perhaps one with an alternative path to the glacier. Excellent work, Lady Leilatha. Assemble your war priests, and--"
"Wait, Kael," Illidan cut him off, raising an eyebrow in the air. "Perhaps Arthas has found a new path to Icecrown--or perhaps he is laying a trap. We can ill afford to leave this pass unguarded. Remain here, my prince, and re-fortify the base. I will see to the bastard prince of Lordaeron myself."
"But, Master--" Kael could feel the anger and impatience rising within him. He was not about to leave that bastard human to Illidan. Not after everything he had done to Quel'thalas, to the Sunwell, to Kael's people--
"Kael." And Illidan's voice was softer, sympathetic. It washed over Kael like a comforting blanket, and seemed to dissipate his irritation as quickly as it arose. "I do not want to risk the possibility that Arthas is trying to lure our forces out for the slaughter, and we have lost too many soldiers in this wilderness as it stands."
"I understand the importance of this base, Master, and what it means to our supply lines, but with all due respect, we don't have time for this," Kael argued, in a resolute but courteous manner. "We cannot allow Arthas to reach the Frozen Throne--you said this yourself. The longer we delay, the longer it will take for us to catch up with him."
"Your zeal is commendable, as always, my prince," Illidan began, "but vengeance will only be yours if you do what I say. Your people will not prosper with their beloved prince killed in a meaningless ambush, or worse, a thrall of the Lich King. Vashj now controls the waterways, and that will purchase you enough time. I will send word when I am ready for you to strike."
Kael sighed in defeat, and silently dismissed the messenger. Illidan's reasoning was sound, of course, and he could not argue with it. Arthas was too cunning to be underestimated, even with his growing weakness. However, Kael was still a man of action--and more importantly, Illidan's self-proclaimed right hand. The thought of cowering within the Sin'dorei base while his master was in danger was maddening. There was little other choice, however.
As always, Illidan seemed to see right into Kael's heart. He thrust one of his massive warglaives into the snow, and placed the now-free hand on the Elven prince's shoulder in a sympathetic gesture, his lips curling into one of those handsome, slight smiles that made Kael so weak in the knees. The emerald-tinged fire that burned in his unnatural fel eyes seemed to burn a bit brighter, then, peeking through the blindfold. "Your trust in me has not been misplaced as of yet, has it? Have I as yet led you astray?"
"...no, Master. It hasn't. And you have not." Kael sighed again.
"Then give me your trust once more, Kael'thas Sunstrider," Illidan pressed. "Let me make certain this is not a ruse. If it isn't, I swear to you, together we will avenge your precious Quel'thalas, and then cast down that thrice-damned specter once and for all." His voice was firm, but once again using that quiet, half-purring tone. Kael wondered why he never threw his weight around with him, the way he did with the naga, and why Illidan seemed to have this need for Kael to not simply follow him blindly but believe in him, the way Vashj did. The Master's words rang true in the Elf's long, pointed ears, and steeled his heart against any fear. Illidan quite often had that effect upon him.
"Your will be done, Master," Kael declared, his own eyes hard and determined. "I would burn the length and breadth of sky for you--" And Kael stopped, worried when his heart rose into his throat that he might say something he would regret. That he would let the beautiful demon that had been haunting his dreams since first he set foot in Outland know that his fealty was not simply born of obligation to his own people's well-being, and that his fears for him had little to do with the mission itself. Illidan simply could not know. There was too much at stake, here. Particularly, now.
"Thank you, Kael," Illidan murmured in a tone so quiet, Kael barely heard him speak. To the prince's great shock and amazement, that firm, clawed hand moved from his shoulder to rest briefly upon his fair, frost-kissed cheek. Kael gasped, so surprised he was by the sudden sensation, and closed his eyes to steady himself.
When he opened them, Illidan Stormrage was gone, leaving only footprints in the snow.