Well I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'll stop here - I might revisit Grimmjow and Vellena when Cataclysm comes out, but I don't know. That might be a tale left better to your imaginations.
It's been a heck of a romp. Thanks to Shinryu-Twilight Dragon for being my dedicated fanboy/beta, and thanks to all the reviewers who gave me their two cents. I'm really sorry about the gap, but as you see I didn't lie about intending to finish this.
Thanks for sticking with me, readers. It's been fun to see the hit count rise. Remember, reviews are love!
"Quit fidgeting or you'll scuff your armour." Vellena commented crossly.
"Not bloody likely. Laric enchanted the shit outta this stuff. It's supposed to be scuff proof. Well, short of someone coming at me with Frostmourne." Grimmjow replied, trying to stand patiently while the night elf adjusted some detail of his outfit. She was already in her best plate, which had been polished until it gleamed. Only her head was uncovered; and her dusky green hair had been trimmed to shoulder length once more and was neatly brushed. Grimmjow's hair stood in all directions, as usual. But he'd cut it, at least. It had gotten long in the months since he'd arrived in Azeroth.
"Lucky for you Frostmourne is broken." She said. Grimmjow snorted at this, and she straightened up. "We'd better hurry to Runeweaver Square, or we'll miss the unveiling."
"Right. Why are we doing this again?" Grimmjow asked rhetorically. He knew damn well why they were doing this. He just didn't want to do it.
"Because we've been specifically asked to be there. By both Lord Tirion Fordring and Highlord Darion Mograine." Vellena sighed. Grimmjow grinned at her reaction. She gave him a little shove. "Get a move on."
"Hey, watch the armour! Don't scuff it." Grimmjow smirked.
"Oh shut up and go." Grimmjow laughed at her exasperated tone, but he stepped out of their inn room ahead of her and started down the stairs. Vellena followed behind him.
The square wasn't all that far away, but the place was packed. Grimmjow found himself actually hoping that Laric was right about the armour being scuff-proof as they attempted to wind, slip, and shove their way through the crowd. Fortunately, they were spotted by one of the remaining Ebon Blade rankers, who quickly escorted the two to the area where the faction dignitaries were waiting.
There weren't all that many people there at the Ebon Blade's area. A large number of death knights had died. Oh, they hadn't all been killed in that last battle against the Scourge. No, instead, the Lich King's death had taken something out of many of them. With Arthas gone, their sworn purpose of killing him vanished, and thus their reason to exist. A significant number of death knights had just lain down and let go of unlife, just like that. Not all of them, naturally, but certainly a larger proportion than Grimmjow would have expected.
Vellena stayed. Grimmjow had been silently, secretly, very relieved. His lover showed no inclination of wanting to roll over and die.
"There you two are. I was wondering if you were going to show up or not." Gorric addressed them, coming to stand with them. Gorric, too, had not gone anywhere. Grimmjow was glad.
"You know how women are." Grimmjow smirked to Gorric, who nodded sagely. This earned them both a death glare from Vellena.
"Where's Kenna and the rest of them?" Vellena finally asked.
"I think they're with the Dalaran contingent. Have you seen Laric at all?" Gorric responded.
"Nope, no sign of the old bastard anywhere." Grimmjow said. "I was going to ask you."
"Haven't seen hide nor scale of him." Gorric affirmed.
"It's starting." Vellena said. And so it was. Grimmjow noted several mages who he was privately certain were members of the Council of Six standing on the wooden dais near the veiled statue. Mograine and Fordring were beside them, as were Thrall and King Wrynn. There were a number of leaders and dignitaries that Grimmjow couldn't name up there too.
"Ah, apprentice, there you are!" A voice said from behind them. Grimmjow turned his head to see Laric arriving to stand next to him. The grey-haired mage was huffing and out of breath, as though he'd been running or something.
"What do you mean, 'there you are?' You're the one who's late. And don't call me that, luggage." Grimmjow said.
"Don't call me that, furball!"
"Whatever, new boots."
Laric sputtered. Then he pointed. "Hey look, there's Krasus arriving late. See? I'm not the only one." Grimmjow rolled his eyes.
"What kept you?" Grimmjow demanded.
"If you must know, Alexstrasza wanted to have a talk with me." Laric's tone was smug and a little self righteous.
"Oh really? What did she want with you?" Grimmjow snorted.
"Actually..." Laric looked suddenly less sure of himself. "ShewantsmetotakeMalygos'splaceasthestewardofmagic." He coughed out, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
Grimmjow twitched, staring at the mage. He wasn't the only one. Gorric and Vellena were completely ignoring the speeches being made in favour of eyeing Laric like he was about to explode.
"What?" The arrancar yelled, a lot louder than he intended.
"SHHHH!" Laric hissed loudly. Grimmjow jerked, looking around. A few people were staring at him, as his outburst had been loud enough to carry to parts of the crowd. He glowered and people lost interest.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me. You?" Grimmjow scoffed.
"Well, yes, me." Laric huffed, crossing his arms across his chest. "I am one of the only surviving offspring of Malygos and Sindragosa, after all. So mind your manners, or I'll turn you into a penguin."
Grimmjow rolled his eyes. Laric? Steward of Magic? He wondered how long it would take for the mage to goof that up. Actually, maybe that was uncharitable. Laric was a bit of a twerp, but he was a highly skilled magic user. Grimmjow could admit to himself how lucky he was to have encountered the old freak and had the opportunity to learn from him, but he wasn't about to admit that to Laric.
Vellena cleared her throat audibly and glared at them both. "Enough, you two. I think we're about to get called up."
Sure enough, Thassarian and Koltira were approaching them quickly. The two death knights stopped in front of Grimmjow and his friends.
"Ah, Sir Jaegerjaquez, Dame Nightwind, Sir Bloodaxe. There you are. Please, accompany us to the dais." Koltira requested, formally. Vellena gave a brief nod, and they followed the two commanders. Laric came too, for 'moral support,' as he put it.
Minutes later, he was kneeling in front of a cheering crowd at the feet of Mograine, while the highlord draped a medal over his head and pronounced him a Champion of the Ebon Blade, along with Vellena and Gorric. Grimmjow felt vaguely stunned. Despite his cavalier and irrelevant attitude leading up to this, he was actually deeply flattered and a little thrilled by this. Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, getting medals and hailed as a hero. If only the shinigami could see him now. They'd piss themselves.
But the accolades weren't over. Krasus stepped forward, reading a missive from Alexstrasza, declaring that the ten who had destroyed the threat Aizen represented henceforth be known as Defenders of Life. Grimmjow struggled hard to keep from howling with laughter at that. Even Vellena and Gorric looked a bit amused at the irony. Laric had thrown Krasus a surprised look. Grimmjow may have been the only other person that caught the other mage's wink.
They went back down to where they had been waiting before, and found several familiar faces.
"Orfeo Firehammer, Defender o'Life! I like tha sound o'that one." Orfeo was saying, puffing up his chest and looking self important. Beside him, Kennana was grinning like a loon, holding up her medal and examining it. Catching sight of the approaching quartet, she jumped up and down excitedly.
"Look, Gorric, we all got medals too!" She said. The orc grinned at her, tusked mouth wide.
"I see that Kenna."
"Defender of Life. It's a title I'll bear with pride." Brosh murmured. Beside him, Ilyanaya nodded.
Grimmjow grinned at the assembled group. They were all there, even Orzul, who was attempting to keep what looked like a see-through blue sabre cat cub from squirming out of his grasp.
"So when's the party begin?" The arrancar asked.
"Wait for ze unveiling at least." Haroldus said, looking mildly disapproving at the ex-Espada's eagerness to skip the formality and get straight to the ruckus.
"You won't have to wait long. Look." Laric said, pointing. Those who had managed to survive the fight against the Lich King had just been honored, and the cloth was being pulled from the statue to the riotous sounds of cheering in the square.
"That's it? I'm not even on it!" Grimmjow scoffed, getting a good look at the statue for the first time.
'Honestly I would have thought you'd prefer it that way." Laric commented.
"Why would you say that?" Grimmjow gave him a sidelong glance.
"Well, you're probably going to have a hard enough time finding opponents brave enough to face you in the pit without tacking 'Kingslayer' after your name and having your ugly face preserved forever in stone in the middle of Dalaran." Laric snorted.
"Hey, I'm not as ugly as you." Grimmjow protested, but he considered it. Laric was probably right. Damn, the titles he got were probably going to scare off opponents. And that other title, Kingslayer, came with a price he wasn't sure he wanted to pay. They'd all heard what happened up on that spire. Everyone had died. Granted, most of them had been brought back to life, but not all of them. Grimmjow already had one second chance. He knew he wasn't guaranteed another. Especially as he suspected he'd done what the spirit healer wanted when he'd killed Aizen.
It turned into quite the party. Wherever Grimmjow and his friends went that night, they were fêted and celebrated, treated to free drinks and food and even given gifts. The arrancar had to admit it was pretty fucking awesome. Maybe, just maybe, he could begin to understand a little of the appeal of being one of the 'good guys.' Grimmjow hadn't done it for the accolades; he'd done it because it needed to be done and Aizen was a bastard. But the accolades were kind of cool.
Everyone was having a blast. He and Vellena danced, which was comical in and of itself. He'd never learned to dance, and if Vellena had learned, it had clearly been before she died. But they had fun, and he enjoyed the feel of his night elf against him (at least after he'd persuaded her it was ok to go back to the inn and get out of the armour).
At some point he'd lost track of most of their friends, though he spotted Orfeo with a huge stein of beer in one hand and a dwarven maiden in the other, sitting on his knee. He was clearly bragging, and the girl was just as clearly impressed with the dwarf's bluster. Grimmjow caught a sight of Kenna leading Gorric up the stairs at the Legerdemain, too. Brosh and Ilya had vanished completely, as had Haroldus (old square probably couldn't appreciate a party), but later on in the night Grimmjow thought he saw Orzul dancing extensively with some unfamiliar night elf who the troll clearly seemed to have some prior acquaintance with.
He sat at a wooden picnic table with a decent beer, Vellena at his side, casually watching people dancing. The bench squeaked as a body sat itself next to him. Grimmjow grunted a greeting at Laric.
"So what are you going to do now?" The mage asked.
"Get sloshed and find out if arrancar get hangovers." Grimmjow stated bluntly. Vellena snorted a laugh, waving a greeting to the blue dragon.
"No, I mean now that Arthas and Aizen are dead."
"Fucked if I know." Grimmjow wasn't too concerned. He downed the beer and slammed the glass mug on the wooden table. Within seconds a svelte high elf barmaid sashayed over and replaced it with another full stein. She gave Laric an inquiring glance, and the mage shook his head. Satisfied, she walked away.
"Do either of you have plans?" Laric asked.
"Huh?" Grimmjow looked at his sensei. Even Vellena gave him a puzzled glance. "What have you got in mind, old man?"
"Well you might have heard some rumours about Deathwing coming back..." Laric said. Vellena's eyes widened. Grimmjow didn't react. He'd heard people mention the name but didn't really know what they were talking about.
"The rumours are true?" Vellena asked.
"It's worse than we thought. The situation at Wyrmrest Temple is fragmenting rapidly; the Wyrmrest Accord is crumbling as we speak. I told you what Alexstrasza asked me to do. I didn't tell you all of her reasons. With Malygos gone, Deathwing has apparently got his eyes on my father's portfolio. The Lich King might be dead, but Azeroth's problems are far from over." Laric said, quietly.
"Deathwing, isn't he a dragon?" Grimmjow asked.
"He's an Aspect." Laric replied.
"That's a dragon, right?"
Both Vellena and Laric gave him flat looks. "Yes, Grimmjow. An Aspect is a dragon." Laric said, slowly, slightly insultingly. Grimmjow rolled his eyes and smirked.
"Yeah, I'll help you kill 'im." Grimmjow said. Vellena looked a little doubtful for a moment, but she nodded wordlessly. He felt a surge of warmth at that. Whatever he was going to do, he knew he'd be doing it with Vellena.
Laric snorted at Grimmjow's cavalier attitude. "He's no pushover."
"It's what you wanted to ask me, though, right? I'll help you." Grimmjow repeated.
"Yeah, it's what I was going to ask you."
"Don't worry, Laric, with me on your side, you can't lose." Grimmjow assured him. "This Deathwing better watch out. Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, Defender of Life, is coming for his ass." He took a swig of his beer and grinned. "Heh, I kind of like the sound of that."