Author: Well, lovelies. This is it. The last chapter. I have tried for nearly 2 months to expand this chapter, but I'm never going to be happy with anything else I tack on to explain some things I allude to. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: Nope, still not mine.

Chapter 10

Spring had descended on Stormwind. The morning air was pleasantly cool and soft, and the scents of freshly baked bread and a waking city glided along a gentle breeze. The stones of the Keep held the cool temperature of the night, and Varian only wished he could enjoy the weather more. As it was, he was required to focus on the matters of state before him, regardless of how much he wanted to strap on his lighter, unrecognizable plate armor and escape into the human territories for a few days to get away from all the pressures that had been building in his life.

There have been rumors before, sightings by adventurers with no substance, Varian thought and rubbed his chin pensively as he stood in his throne-room and pondered the report he had received the moment he had walked into the throne room. Silverpine has always been overrun with worgen, the creations of a madman, but this seems…different. The worgen actually communicated with Tyrande. It—she—was well-spoken and carried a thick Gilnean accent even though no longer human. I wish I could have met her, but Tyrande wouldn't deliberately lie to me, not about something this important.

Varian shifted on his feet, uneasy. What does this mean? That worgen could have been an anomaly. Perhaps I should send my own agent. I'll send a message to SI:7 to find someone who isn't an agent of theirs to infiltrate Gilneas. But, the wall is still impassible…how to get them into Gilnean waters without engaging the thrice-damned Forsaken?

Varian could feel the beginnings of a headache stirring behind his eyes, so he took a covert deep breath and he pushed away the pain.

The day was still young.



Varian looked over to his son and gave him a smile. "Yes?"

"Are you alright?"

Varian shook his head slightly. "I'm fine. I have a meeting with the Battlemasters, the Grand Admiral and Officer Mithras soon, and the day has just begun."

Anduin frowned and was about to say something when the aforementioned dwarf approached and gave Varian a brisk salute. "My Lord."

Varian nodded and looked at Anduin. "Do you want to participate in planning?"

Anduin's eyes lit up.

Varian felt a little bad about so obviously derailing his son's concerns, but he justified it as the boy needing to see how the kingdom was faring. Anymore Anduin was consumed with his studies, which Varian didn't entirely mind. He took quiet joy in how strong his son was becoming. While he was obviously still a novice, even Varian could feel a depth to his power—it would take a lot to tire out his son.

The two of them entered the War Room in his Keep to review where the Horde was known and speculated to be, what casualties were on both sides, and what the latest intelligence was.

While some places, like the Eastern Plaugelands, had been taken control of by Tirion and his minions, and therefore was more-or-less a neutral zone, there were still places that were decidedly Horde territory.

At least Outland has more-or-less resolved itself. Illidian, or whoever that male was, has been defeated along with that insane demon-magic guzzling high elf who attached himself to the Kaldorei. Now all that remains is helping the draenei rebuild their homes in that world…and keeping the other natives from undoing the good that we've managed to accomplish.

"Sir Fardale, how are things looking in the conflict zones?" Varian asked and looked over at the man, who saluted him before turning to the map before him.

"Inconclusive, my Lord. The Horde is regretfully persistent—they won't let any territory go."

Lady Devay nodded and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before waving her hand over the map, segmenting the large display into smaller ones with statistics beside each miniaturized map. "I've done some analysis, sire, and have some potential plans to win and keep these battle-grounds."

"I am listening," Varian said and the woman brought the map of Ashenvale forth and focused on an area of particularly heated conflict.

Varian listened intently as each point of conflict was examined and debated, but was aware of his son growing bored.

He has to learn, but there's no need to torture him with things he has no interest in and doesn't understand.

"Perhaps we can discuss these matters latter, my Lady. I think it might be better to look into the state of our kingdom and contested territories?" Varian said when a lull in planning was reached.

The Lady nodded slightly, obviously annoyed at the change, but willing to acquiesce.

Varian looked over the map of the Eastern Kingdoms, and his eyes traced the trade routes that were vital to Stormwind and her people.

"A neutral area is lined by a yellow border, Horde is red, Alliance is blue, contested is purple," Varian told his son, who was now looking intently at the map and listening to the debating around them.

Varian sighed silently, glad that he was being ignored after he had shifted the topic—afterall, he wasn't expected to be cognizant of trade routes, statistics, and diplomatic policies, even though he did happen to read all the reports that came in. Just because he was more warrior than diplomat didn't mean he was stupid.

He turned his attention back to the map and began a mental inventory of his own.

I must focus on my people. Light, what to do?

Varian wanted to rub his eyes in frustration, but he had to keep decorum, lest people think he weak.

Well, at least I no longer have the Defias to worry about.

No, instead I have an abundance of people who are flooding Westfall due to the taxes that were necessary to keep the ventures in Outland and Northrend supplied.

Varian scowled at the map. The drought in Westfall and the pillaging have left the major farmland struggling to produce grain—produce anything, really. Redridge isn't farmland, it's too rocky—and the territory is crawling with Blackrock orcs, so I can't set up any solid mining operations. That venture wouldn't last for long anyway, since those kinds of resources can be depleted.

Duskwood still can't be cleansed of whatever evil has seeped into its land. Any wood from logging the area is warped and leaves those handling it haunted or ill. Nothing can be built with it. Maybe I could recruit some druids or shaman to take a thorough look at the place. Perhaps they can heal or cleanse the land or somesuch, since paladin and priests have had such astounding successes.

Varian shifted on his feet and his eyes unfocused as he thought. Elwynn. Those stupid kobolds have to be completely uprooted to allow the mines to be used again, and those damned murlocs have to be disposed of. Thankfully, many an adventurer seems to have a vendetta against them, so a large enough reward will probably be incentive to kill them all and find their eggs so that they can no longer exist in the lakes. It wouldn't be good to increase logging, though, as the endeavor is working at full capacity as it is.

Varian rested a hand gently on the hilt of his sword. Would expansion into other territories be wise? The conflict in Kalimdor over natural resources and territory is heated enough that I can do without that same magnitude of contestation in the Eastern Kingdoms.

Varian sighed inwardly. People have suggested the Western Plaugelands. Had he not been in public, a wry smile would have formed on his face. To think that humans would be attempting to take back Lordaeron. Well, it's an idea. The Argent Dawn and Cenarion Circle have made significant progress in the Western one. Attempting to settle the Western Plaguelands would also be a step in pushing the Horde out of the Eastern Kingdoms—I would be hedging them into just Tirisfal and Silverpine. However, the Eastern Plaugelands is still far too corrupt for any attempt at settlement. Still too seeped with the evil he spread.

The brief memory of Arthas sent a spike of utter loathing through Varian that he hid only through practice.

Varian took a quiet, deep breath. So, the Western Plaugelands is where I could relocate some of the dislocated inhabitants of my territories. Should I try to take back other parts of Lordaeron? Well, definitely not Tirisfal Glades. That would almost be a declaration of war, and no matter how much I want to see that Banshee bitch and her undead minions gone from the face of Azeroth I can't afford that right now.

Should I try to strike some sort of deal with the survivors of Stromgarde? There aren't enough of them to fully rebuild their kingdom, but I can help. They have land that can be easily converted to farmland once the Syndicate and trolls have been chased off. The elementals will require more thought, but, damnit, I want to reclaim the territory for the people of Stromgarde. They were highly valued in the original Alliance.

Would it be possible that the Wildhammer dwarves would share some of their territory? Getting the Wildhammer on our side would be a good decision anyway. The Alterac Mountains and Hinterlands fall mostly under their jurisdiction. The furs and meats we get from the area are needed by the dwarves farther south—not to mention my people—and the gryphons they train are the best in the Eastern Kingdoms. Unfortunately, neither area is particularly good farmland, but they provide a doorway to Horde-controlled lands farther north and west.

Varian fought the steady ache forming at his temples.

Light-damned Horde.

The intelligence he had received regarding his enemies had been both disturbing and vague. His operatives couldn't get a hold of any solid information, since most of the people, including those in the military, knew little to nothing about what the upper-ranks were doing. All that was certain was that things were distinctly uncertain.

I hope they all kill each other for me. Save me one trouble. Varian let out a long, slow breath of frustration. Never easy.

Varian caught sight of a gnome walking by and had to fight to resist the desire to rub his eyes.

Light, and then there's them. The dwarves are getting worried about keeping such volatile creatures as the gnomes in their city—and rightfully so. Mekkatorque has approached me about taking back Gnomeregan and his ambassador has been heavily petitioning for Stormwind's aid.

Varian shifted on his feet. Again, work for my soldiers but not the common folk. What can I barter with the gnomes for lending them Stomwind's strength? Most of their inventions are too unstable to be of immediate use...

But, gnomes were members of the Alliance, so he would have to lend a hand.

Light, can't I get good news for once?

Varian took a covert deep breath before turning his mind to other problems in the Eastern Kingdoms.

I have no idea what to make of the Thorium Brotherhood. They are-but-are-not Dark Iron dwarves, and with it appearing the Moriya will be returning to Ironforge with her infant in tow, it might be necessary to bring the Brotherhood over to our side. Stormwind needs allies desperately.

The Burning Steppes and Searing Gorge are both important sources of ore that we can't do without. If adventurers can endear themselves to the not-Dark-Iron-dwarves, then I sure as the nether can. Well, ambassadors I choose can. I doubt that I'd be able to.

Then there's the ogres and orcs and black dragons who disrupt trade lines and the safety of travelers in the Badlands. Problems! Always problems and never solutions.

It's times like these that I want to go back to being a gladiator. I didn't have to deal with paperwork and logistics and the well-being of thousands of people then.

Varian glanced over the Ironforge-dwarves territories and shifted on his feet.

The dwarves are having problems of their own, especially politically. I can't get involved in that—the Wildhammer, Dark Iron, and Ironforge dwarves will have to figure out what to do with each other on their own.

Varian's eyes drifted to Hillsbrad and a scowl briefly crossed his face.

We must secure Southshore. That is the only human port in the area, and therefore deserves all the protection I can possibly afford. If I could chase the Horde out, it would also provide good farmland. It used to be…

Varian looked quickly away to Silverpine Forest and Gilneas.

Silverpine is securely in the hold of the Forsaken, and I still can't get into Gilneas. That stupid wall of theirs and the reefs that surround the territory has made it impossible to get to them. If only Greymane…!

Varian's gaze drifted back down to his realm.

And then there's the Swamp. The Horde is thoroughly entrenched there, and far, far too close to Redridge. While the Swamp, the Pass, and the Blasted Lands don't have any vital trade goods, they're a steady source of problems. Demons still escape through the open Dark Portal and the Pass is a gate for both the Swamp and Lands into Duskwood—not to mention the Tower that looms over the area. The last thing I need is Duskwood to be overrun with undead and demons and worgen and Horde.

Varian's eyes drifted to Stranglethorn and his lips twitched slightly.

Booty Bay. The trade-point of every illegal object possible. Best to ignore it.

The Vale itself is responsible for herbs, fruit, pelts, and fish. There's no way that it could ever be converted for human use. The dark magic of the trolls' will keep the wilderness wild no matter what efforts may be enforced anyway.

So, where does that leave matters?

"Anduin, where do things stand, as of now, in the Eastern Kingdoms?" Varian asked aloud, and his son jumped in surprise at his father addressing him. "The short version, please."

"Westfall is doing badly, the Forsaken are being aggressive to the north, disturbing rumors are coming from Gilenas, political upheaval is occurring in Ironforge, and the orcs seem to be gearing up for an invasion from the Swamp of Sorrows. Not to mention the vocal concerns of the Earthen Ring and Cenarion Circle and a surge in Twilight Cult activity."

Damn, forgot about those.

Varian took one last look at the map before him and he forced tension out of his shoulders. "Has there been any inquiry into the reports and rumors coming out of Gilneas?" Varian addressed his other advisors.

Varian already knew that the answer was 'Not really,' but he knew that an explanation would come afterwards in an attempt to show him that matters were being taken care of.

"That would be a question more for the Kaldorei ambassador. Should I ask for her presence?" Mithras Ironhill inquired.

Varian crossed his arms and focused on Gilenas.

Perhaps it would be good to hear it from her directly.

"Do it."

As the peon walked briskly away, Varian sighed inwardly.

"You sure you don't need a break, father?"

Varian looked over at his son and smiled faintly.

"Maybe I should," Varian sighed. The headache that had been threatening earlier had bloomed and, while he could ignore it, he had headache medicine in his chambers that he could really use.

Varian took a temporary leave and allowed himself a moment of weakness to rub his temples in an attempt to suppress the pain as he walked towards his chambers.

I should dictate more things, but if I do that, things don't get done—or if they do get done, they get done badly, and the last time I trusted anyone with any substantial part of my kingdom, it was manipulated by a thrice-damned black dragon.

Varian nodded to a guard that was patrolling near his chambers before he opened the door and stepped inside, a long sigh escaping him.

Varian found the vial of headache-suppressant that was created for him and took the dose before sitting in his chair.

He grimaced and rubbed his eyes, allowing the mask to slip, exhaustion and cares catching up with him.

And my troubles don't end with the Eastern Kingdoms and Outland—there's still Arthas. Still the offensive in Northrend.

The campaign had ground to a halt, it seemed. Even with the best efforts of the Ebon Blade death knights, the Argent Crusade, and adventurers, Icecrown was proving a tougher fight than predicted.

And there are conflicts with the Horde there, in Icecrown and elsewhere.

The reminder of the Horde in Northrend made Varian's lips pull back in a small, tired smirk. Although there is one good thing about Northrend.

Varian still had no idea why Garrosh had done what he did, but he was grudgingly grateful. It was because of him—and some timely intervention on a paladin's part—that he wasn't enthralled to the Lich King. While the…incident…was far from common knowledge, enough people knew that he had disappeared into the forsaken wasteland for a little while to make them watch him carefully, poised for any signs that Icecrown had left any lingering effects.

It was why he now spent most of his time in the Eastern Kingdoms.

His headache subdued somewhat, Varian pushed away from his desk and stood. A letter from the Argent Crusade caught his eye and he picked it up, turning it in his hands.

It must have been delivered today. I don't remember it being here before—and it's marked urgent.

Varian frowned and placed the missive back down. If it were truly, desperately urgent someone would have handed it to me. I'll read it once the day is done.

Varian sighed and pushed himself to his feet.

I should go back to meet the Kaldorei ambassador, he thought as he pulled his exhaustion to heel. I need to know whether or not the rumors are true.

Varian let his hair down and re-tied it in its horsetail, the almost automatic motion comforting. He readjusted his armor and cloak before stepping out into the world again, falling back into his public persona.

I'll survive this day. I'll survive this headache, and Stormwind will survive Northrend, the Horde, and anything else that comes its way.

Varian vigorously toweled his hair dry and another towel was slung low on his hips as he walked over to his armoire, feeling content and energized after a little fury-specialization practice and the following bath that had worked any potential soreness out of his muscles.

The day hadn't been easy. After the tactical meetings, petitioner after petitioner that he could do nothing for had seen him, and he hadn't wanted to say that he was as strapped as they were, since they wouldn't have believed him. Running three campaigns at once consumed more resources than it generated.

He promised help to Darkshire, but the help always got lost along the way, waylaid by any number of things, and those that did make it to help the Night Watch were far from useful.

He promised help to Redridge, but the orcs and gnolls were numerous and bothersome and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't uproot them—they were like a particularly nasty weed that, no matter how deep he dug, just refused to be destroyed.

He thought he had succeeded in Westfall, but the trouble he had removed had caused another, perhaps more dire, one to take its place. It was the petitioners that came from Westfall that left him feeling worst. But he couldn't apologize to them—they would find no solace in the words.

The veterans from the Outland campaign haunted him. They were people changed, unable to find their place in the world that they used to call home. Most returned to Outland after only a few days back in Azeroth or went to Northrend, seeking some new form of strangeness to replace the nightmares that plagued them.

Varian rubbed his eyes. "Light," he muttered. "Never easy."

He pulled out some clothes and tossed them on the bed before he retrieved leather armor out of a different drawer.

With his life, armor of some sort was always necessary, but sleeping in plate was far from comfortable.

He heard a knock at his door when he was pulling his wet hair back and frowned.

Who would come and search me out at this time of night? It has to be, what, 2 in the morning?

"Come in," he called out, and the door opened slowly.

"Dad?" Anduin asked hesitantly as he entered the room and closed the door quietly behind him.

"What's wrong?" Varian asked. It was unnerving to see his son so obviously worried.

"Y—dad!" Anduin half-yelped and turned away, which made Varian frown.


"Put some clothes on!"

Varian couldn't help the laugh that escaped him and did as demanded, putting on his undergarments and the shirt and pants that he used to prevent chaffing from his armor.

"Better?" he asked, a suppressed laugh in his voice and Anduin turned around, his cheeks still slightly red.

"Light, dad, really?"

Varian shrugged. "They're my chambers, aren't they?"

"Yes, well…" Anduin sighed and scratched his head.

"Now, why are you here?" Varian prompted.

Anduin pushed past his embarrassment and his mien became more somber. "You haven't been eating lately."

Varian's frowned at the statement. "Of course I have been."

"Dad, the last time you actually touched any of the food on your plate was a week ago."

Really? Damn, I've been distracted with rumors of sentient worgen.

"I have been eating. I've had things here and there," Varian answered evasively and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Not enough to survive on," Anduin replied. "You're losing weight."

Varian balked. "I am not. Look—my clothes fit fine," he said and gestured to his body. "I've just been training a lot."

Anduin shifted on his feet. "How much sleep have you gotten recently?"

"Enough," Varian answered vaguely, puzzled by the jumps in topics.

"Dad, you've been looking pale. Are you sick?"

Varian shook his head, annoyance blooming. "I feel perfectly fine, Anduin. You don't have to worry about me."

"Dad…" Anduin pleaded. "You…I watched you today."

"And?" Varian had felt his son's regard, but hadn't put it together as Anduin watching him with the eyes of a healer.

Anduin took a deep breath. "Over the course of an hour, you breathed three times when you weren't talking."

Varian blinked.


"Dad, that isn't good, you should be dead." Anduin walked quickly over to Varian and stood an arm's length away. "You should be dead, but I know that you're alive, which should be…impossible."

"I am not undead," Varian snarled quietly.

"Then what's going on…?"

Varian ran a hand through his hair, a scowl forming on his face. He hated being reminded of his…situation.

"Anduin, it doesn't affect my abilities as a king, so it's nothing to worry about."

"Nothing to worry about?" Anduin half-exclaimed in incredulity. "Dad, you should be dead."

"But I'm not," Varian replied. "You said that I'm alive and you are a priest, so you should be able to tell these things."

"Dad, that's not the point. It's not good in general to barely eat, breathe, or sleep. Other people will start noticing that something isn't right, and that'll only cause suspicion and give your enemies ammunition."

"I slipped this once," Varian said shortly. "It won't happen again."

"'This once'?" Anduin exclaimed. "How long have you had this?"

"It doesn't matter," Varian replied and walked over to his desk.

"Dad, yes, it does," Anduin replied ferverently. "I don't want to lose you!"

A tense silence fell thickly between them, and Varian broke it with a gusty sigh.

"You won't," he asserted.

You can't.

"How can I know that for sure?" Anduin demanded. "Dad, please. Tell me what's wrong!"

"No," Varian answered flatly.

Anduin blinked, surprised by the finality of the answer.

"You will not lose me. You don't have to worry about my health. I'll be fine Anduin. This is nothing."



Varian winced inwardly as Anduin stiffened in surprise at the severity of his voice, but Varian really didn't need anyone finding out about his condition.

"As your father, I ask you to leave it alone."

"But, since you are my dad, I have a right to be concerned about your well-being. Something like this happened before—when you became partly S-Scourge."

"This is different," Varian snapped. "I am not Scourge. At all. I have absolutely no connection to the asshole who skulks up in Northrend and I have no control over the undead. I am not undead."

"Then why aren't you breathing? Why aren't you eating or sleeping?"

"That is not your concern, Prince Anduin Llane Wrynn."

Anduin jumped at the use of the formal address and stared at his father.

It took him a moment to recover before he said, "As the heir to the throne, I need to be concerned about the current king's well-being in the interests of the citizens of Stormwind. If their king is ill, then he cannot serve his people."

"I'm not sick," Varian growled.

"Then what's wrong?"

"Nothing!" Varian repeated heatedly. "I'm alive, I'm not sick, and I'm in control of my mind. Stop worrying about me and focus on your studies. You serve Stormwind better by mastering the Light than fretting about my health."

"You think I'll have to use it against you?" Anduin half-exclaimed.

Varian's eyes narrowed. "I didn't say that and you will never need to. We live in a dark, dangerous world, Anduin. You need to be as strong as possible, and since you're not one to be dragged out to the training ground and hit over the head with a stick until you learn to block correctly, you'll have to do the magical equivalent."

"I'm a healer."

"Healers still need to protect themselves—perhaps even more so than any warrior, as healers are responsible for the well-being of others as well." Varian sighed. "I don't want to lose you. You need to learn to protect yourself as my sole heir, and to protect yourself you need to be strong."

Anduin frowned slightly. "Why am I your only child? Why haven't you taken another wife? Even as a child, I wouldn't have held it against you."

Varian rubbed his eyes. It was an issue that had been brought up innumerable times by a great many people. "Most nobles in the age-range I'd feel comfortable with are male, which precludes being able to have any children."

"Oh," Anduin answered lamely.

"Thankfully, there are a few young women around your age in the noble families—not like they allow them in Stormwind, though," Varian half-growled. "They claim that the city isn't safe."

Anduin sighed faintly, which sent a spike of guilt through Varian.

"You have friends among your colleagues, right?" Varian asked hesitantly. He'd been keeping distant watch on his son's progress, but refused to smother his child. Varian's constant watch would make other people nervous, and that wouldn't do.

"Yes, but…it's hard for them to forget."

Varian scowled inwardly. If only Greymane hadn't been such an ass and walled off his people. I believe he has children. It would be good for Anduin to see and interact with other royals.

There was a small silence before Anduin sighed. "You really aren't going to tell me what's wrong."

"Because there's nothing to tell," Varian replied.

"Dad…look at it from my perspective. You're the only father I have. What did it feel like when your father died and you were powerless to do anything?"

Varian flinched. Why must he be so smart? It isn't fair.

Varian's shoulders slumped slightly and he pushed around papers on his desk.



"I am as well as I will ever be. But if you ever catch me forgetting to eat, tell me. Not that you will catch me again." Varian fixed his son with a look. "Now, what are you doing up at 2 in the morning?"

Anduin rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I have an exam tomorrow and haven't gotten in as much studying as I would have liked. I was studying about the respiratory system, which reminded me about you not breathing, which reminded me of how you look pale, which reminded me you hadn't been eating, which made me conclude that you were probably not sleeping either," Anduin replied.

Varian sighed in distant amusement. "Go back and study, Anduin. Can't have the prince of Stormwind failing an exam, can we?"

Anduin smiled crookedly and made a sound of protest when Varian ruffled his hair and used his head as a fulcrum to turn his son towards the door.




"But, dad!"

"I can work on little sleep. I've been doing it since I was younger than you, thanks to the filthy green skins that razed my home. But you need to study so you can do well and get a little sleep before the test. I know that trying to spar while half-asleep was—and is—a terrible idea, and I can't imagine that healing half-asleep would be any easier."

Anduin hesitated, then sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat. "You won't tell me what's wrong."

"It's nothing that can be fixed," Varian replied and nudged his son towards the door.

"You're certain?" Anduin asked as his hand rested on the door.


Anduin opened the door before looking back at his father. "Take care."

Varian grimaced once the door closed fully and ran a hand through his damp hair.


As guilt coursed through him over the deception of his son, he found himself thinking. Remembering.

One of the things that constantly haunted him was the knowledge that he had nearly betrayed everything and everyone he loved. The knowledge of his weakness. Even though years had passed, it still stung.

Varian hated how impotent he had been. Every thought, every motion had been directed by another. He had been a passenger in his own body, suffocated by a dark power that left him helpless.

It had been a terrifying, humiliating experience. No matter how hard he fought, he could feel the magic binding him, mind and soul. He had struggled against his own demons, had been caged by all the quiet insecurities he carried within him, and had felt true despair—the only other time he had felt such consuming agony was when he had realized, truly realized that he had no home. Stormwind was razed by frenzied green-skinned monsters and his father was dead at the hands of someone he had trusted, who had been exactly like the filthy creatures that had killed so many of his people. The insidious whispers that he had learned to ignore, that said that should have been able to do something, not run away like a coward had been overwhelming, and he had hated himself.

He had learned to deal with the quiet guilt, but when it was given voice again, when the horror he had endured as a child was resurrected, the hate that he had felt for himself was renewed, augmented by reminders of all the times he failed—when his wife had died, when his own people had turned against him, when he allowed a black dragon to take over his court.

But then Garrosh had arrived.

Not that he had initially known it was Garrosh. He had simply sensed the smallest crack in the binding and had lunged for it, craving any way outside of the torment. He had slowly worked the thin break wider, and fought for every inch against the depression and darkness that dragged at him. Pain he could distantly feel was an anchor, a reminder that there was something outside the dark prison he found himself trapped in, and that memories were nothing but that—memories.

"Struggle. You will lose."

Those words had given him a solid handhold, especially when he recognized the speaker and could distantly feel Garrosh's body pressed against his own. Every hand-to-hand touch gave him something to latch onto, and by the time Garrosh had the audacity to demand his submission, Varian had wrenched a substantial amount of control back, enough to control his mind, if not his body.

All it took to begin to reclaim control of his body was Garrosh's obvious intent to strip him, and the deep, smoldering heat in the orc's eyes. It had made Arthas sneer at the paltry demands of living flesh and had made Varian ache in need.

Every deliberate, painfully intimate contact had allowed Varian to focus more on Garrosh and his own physicality, so when Garrosh finally began to take him, it obliterated the last vestiges of Arthas' hold on him, wiped away the dark magic and restored breath and life to a body that had been so close to irrevocably dead.

Varian had never thought that sex could be so good. Even the slightest reminder made his skin prickle. He could still recall the first time that Garrosh had forced him to relinquish his body and control, could clearly remembered how every burning touch, every painful thrust into his body that claimed him as belonging with—not to—the orc. He remembered how the sex had anchored him, centered him, and solidified his hold on reality and life.

Varian shifted in his chair and shivered as the briefest tingle of memory crawled across his skin.

Oh, Light, he breathed inwardly. I hate him.

The hate didn't matter, though. Not when Garrosh touched him in all the right places that left him breathless, nor when he managed to break the orc down and make him beg.

Varian let out a shuddering breath, trying to ignore the heat that was pooling in his stomach.

Just took a bath, he reminded himself, but the phantom sensation of Garrosh's hand dragging down his back made his breath hitch. An unfortunately clear recollection of how Garrosh's tusk had brushed roughly against his neck made him swallow hard and scowl at a corner.

He shouldn't…why…why can I never stop thinking of…

Varian's head tilted back and he glared at the ceiling above him.

It's not right that's he such a good lay, he thought sullenly as his body gleefully reminded him of how it felt to have Garrosh pressing down on him, covering him, claiming him.

I have to find a reason to go to Northrend.

His gaze fell on the unopened Argent Crusade letter and his eyebrows snapped up.

I may have just found an excuse.

He walked to his desk and unfolded the letter with one hand and read it. As he read, a malevolent smirk slowly twisted across his face.

He placed the letter down, took out an official set of stationary and quickly penned a response. There was no need to consult with anyone else as to the correct action—who was he to deny the personal attention of the King of Stormwind when the offensive in Icecrown had finally breached Arthas' most inner sanctum?

He signed and sealed the letter and placed the reply in a prominent position so he wouldn't forget about it.

If we know how the offensive works, this will also demand the attention of the Warchief. And as Thrall brings Garrosh with him, Garrosh will be there.

Varian's expression slipped into one of salacious anticipation as he planned all the wonderful, terrible things he would do to a particular Overlord.

Author post-note: If you want to know what might have gone on between chapter 9 and 10, well...there are things called smut that I've written elsewhere for your perusal.