"He's the leader of the Kirin Tor?" Varian mutters, eying the redhead sauntering closer.

"He's not the leader. The Kirin Tor are led by a secret council. No one knows who they are; it's supposed to keep the political backbiting down. He's just the visible representative of the Kirin Tor, the public face."

Thrall nods at Jaina's explanation. "That makes sense." Beside him, Garrosh lets out a wordless growl. "Garrosh. Behave."

To my left, Varian smirks. "Keep him on his leash, Warchief. I don't want to have to put him in his place in front of the ladies."

The withering glare I pin him with visibly deflates him. Garrosh smirks and Jaina chokes back a laugh.

"Keep him on his leash, Taretha," the Mag'har taunts. Thrall glowers at him before he can say more.

"Did I miss anything?"

The smoothly cocky voice disrupts the balance of the room, attracting all eyes without actually breaking the tension. The mage blinks as two glares, a pair of scowls, and a look of irritation are all directed at him. Jaina recovers first and waves him to the seat directly across from me.

"Archmage Rhonin."

"Archmage Jaina Proudmoore," he replies with a careless nod. "Would you do the honors?"

"Certainly." She gestures to her right. "King Varian Wrynn. Lady Taretha Foxton. Warchief Thrall. Overlord Garrosh."

"Son of Hellscream," Garrosh adds sullenly, still glaring at the mage now sitting to his right.

"I see." He looks remarkably unperturbed considering that the last time he was in the room with everyone else, it nearly ended in bloodshed. "So, I understand I've been asked to witness the signing of a marriage treaty. I presume Lady Foxton is the beautiful bride-to-be-" his charming smile falters somewhat under my searing displeasure. "And the lucky man is..."

"Me." Varian sets his jaw stubbornly, fully prepared for my glare to be redirected to him, which of course it is.

Rhonin's smile vanishes and he looks back and forth between us, concern evident in the way his eyebrows draw together. "She doesn't look very happy about it."

"She's not," my future husband says calmly.

"Lady Foxton, are you being forced into this against your-"

He swallows as every eye suddenly turns on him with varying degrees of unhappiness, ranging from my cold, offended anger to white-hot fury. Surprisingly, it is Varian's ire which burns hottest.

"I have explained myself to the Horde." Each word is crisp, each syllable bitten off and spat like a dagger of ice. "I have explained myself to the Alliance. I am under no obligation, Archmage Rhonin, to explain myself to you. My reasons are none of your business. My choice is none of your concern. I am well aware of the remarkable things you have done, and no doubt you look at me and see a woman who needs to be 'saved' from her situation. Allow me to assure you that this is not the case. I have my hands full as things stand; I do not need another crusading fool blundering into my life like an enraged kodo rampaging through the glass-blower's quarter. You are here to witness, not to stick your nose into what you do not understand."

Jaina hides a smile; Garrosh doesn't bother making the pretense. To my right, my brother looks proudly down on me while to my left, my future husband sports a grin as cocky as the one the red-haired mage strolled in with. Rhonin frowns.

"Conflict between Horde and Alliance is the concern of the Kirin Tor," he says firmly, just the barest hint of a challenge in his tone.

"Were you not briefed on this situation, Archmage?" Thrall rumbles with an equally subtle note of challenge. "We have availed ourselves of the services offered by the Kirin Tor during every negotiation session; the records should be quite extensive."

Jaina looks at her fellow mage oddly. "The Council knows what effect Taretha has on his Majesty; they explicitly invited her for that exact reason."

Suddenly, Garrosh laughs. "Did you think you could make us play nice, human? Did you hope to pluck that glory for yourself?"

"Of course not!" He colors nearly the same shade as his hair. "I just...I've been busy," he finishes lamely.

"Then stop trying to make a production out of this, and we'll let you get back to your duties," Varian says, looking like he'd rather be communicating with his fists.

Four scrolls are laid on the table by the nervous-looking apprentice who's been standing in the corner with Golthak. Jaina makes a pass over the identical copies of the treaty, mutters, and smiles. "They haven't been tampered with," she says. Another gesture, and they merge into a single roll of parchment which settles before me and unrolls to the six neatly-labeled blanks. The apprentice tentatively offers me a cut-crystal bottle of ink and a glass quill before retreating again. I dip the quill into the bottle and sign my name in gold-flecked purple ink.

Bride: Taretha Foxton

Varian takes the quill and adds his name in a bold hand.

Groom: Varian Wrynn

I pass the quill to Thrall, who prints his name in large, blocky letters.

Guardian of the Bride: THRALL

Scroll, bottle, and quill are passed across the table where the other three add their signatures before passing it back for inspection.

Witness for the Bride: GARROSH

Witness for the Groom: Jaina Proudmoore

Neutral Witness: Rhonin of the Kirin Tor

I nod, and Jaina reverses her spell. The four scrolls are unrolled and examined. The ink, magically dry now, proclaims our names identically on all four copies. She hands one to Rhonin and keeps one for herself while my brother and the king of Stormwind each claim one of the remaining copies.

"It's official now, my lady," Varian says quietly. The faint tremor in his voice speaks more eloquently than the way he avoids my eyes.

No words spring to my lips, no emotions batter my heart. I have just legally signed myself into Varian's care, but it doesn't feel real. Maybe it's because the wedding won't take place until the first day of spring, or because I have been living for weeks with the realization of what I agreed to. Diamond, ruby, and sapphire wink at me from their golden band and dry-eyed, I stare back at them.

"Taretha?"

I look up, surprised to discover that Rhonin has left, and so have Garrosh and Jaina. Over my head, Thrall watches Varian grimly. He's got that vulnerable look in his eyes again, hands clenched as though he would rather be reaching for me but knows better. Maybe Jaina was right, maybe I do need a secret weapon to keep me from retreating within myself.

"My lady," he half-pleads, "this treaty delivers me into your power as much as it entrusts you to me."

I forfeit.

I can hurt him anytime I choose. I am not helpless with him, as I was with Blackmoore. I have not signed away my freedom; I have legally joined the government of Stormwind.

I have a job to do.

"You did that the day we met, my lord."

The relief in his eyes is quickly hidden behind curiosity. "What do you mean, my lady?"

"You declared your intent to change my mind and dedicated yourself to that goal."

"And have I accomplished that yet?"

Thrall chokes back a laugh as I favor Varian with a cool look.

"When that day comes, my lord - if that day comes - you will be the first to know."