The break of day was only an hour away, the two moons finishing their descent across the night sky: The Pale Mother adopting a red hue as it edged ever closer to its reflection on the black of the Great Sea, the Blue Child warming to a purple as it eternally wanders after its mother.
It was the morning of the Founding festival and Jaina had risen before the pink light of sunrise to prepare herself for the day's events. She had opted for a more formal attire instead of her usual mages' robes- perhaps out of a sense of occasion or, more likely, to subtly convey her position as ruler of her city-state.
She was not pretentious enough to have her seamstress make her one of those gaudy things that the noblewomen of Stormwind decorate themselves with: lace and pearls and, ugh, ruffles. Hers was quite simple in construction, though that is not to say that it wasn't made with the utmost care. She had chosen a purple fabric, not unlike the colors she wore daily, but this time to convey a sense of royalty to whoever might see her, however how small that sense might be. For though Jaina Proudmoore did not rule Theramore as queen, her nation is still as sovereign as if she had, and that fact is of utmost importance.
The dress was smartly cut, strapless save for one shoulder. Its hem brushed the tops of her feet, so as not to drag on the ground and she was eternally grateful that it did not feature one of those dreadful crinoline contraptions; they made women look like cake toppers. It would not be fitting to demand her nation's respect whilst looking like a pastry. The dress fit her closely, but not snugly, down to her waist where a band of satin had been sewn to accentuate it. The skirt of the dress wasn't embellished at all; it did not flare out at her hips but rather it hung on them, the seams on either side continuing downward, the hem flowing neatly at her feet. It was simple, but striking.
Her maidservant showed in the attendant who was to do her hair. In truth, Jaina would've preferred to do it herself, but the kind old woman who attended to her would hear nothing of it and scheduled for a professional. And so Jaina sat quietly, if not begrudgingly, as the spindly, puckered woman fussed over her hair, pulling at it until it obeyed the shape she commanded of it. It reminded Jaina of a time far earlier in her life, when she was just a girl and her mother would oversee things such as this, taking great pains to groom her into a proper noblewoman. She smiled, the sad sort that one wears when revisiting an old wound, remembering countless hours of etiquette and posture, the precise depth of a curtsy depending on the rank of the other party ('Never so low, child, for yours is among the rank of Queens.') and which of the arbitrarily large assortment of silverware was proper to use first. Perhaps it was one of the reasons she enjoyed her studies so much, an escape from the world of courtly unknowns into the hard, rigid science of the arcane. Or was it the desire for something more than the stifling walls of a keep, the love of travel and distant lands? The simple child's love of rebellion? Perhaps, all three.
It did not make her truly sad, to remember. It had been quite some time ago that her mother passed away, what had caused the furrow in her brow was that she hadn't kept up on any of her teachings. For though she had an acute understanding of the subject, she only put her skills to use once or twice a year. Every other formal meeting was centered on diplomatic or military efforts, neither of which, thankfully, allowed for frivolity.
But this was not one of those times.
This was a time for speaking idly to powdered ladies attached to the arms of highly decorated and well manicured men, greeting visiting dignitaries from the other nations of the Alliance and other such pleasantries. She silently hoped there would be more than a few Night Elves in attendance that she could bother instead because for all of their aloofness and dislike for mages they weren't prone to idle bullshit in the way that humans were. Or Dwarves, for they were men and women of action. (And their taste for ale was impeccable.)
It is times like this that Jaina wished she were an orc. How lovely it would be, should an asinine noblewoman snipe an insult your way, for it to be perfectly acceptable to punch her in the face for insulting your honor. The mental image alone was enough to garner a smile.
But alas, her skin remained pink, her hair blonde. The woman behind her ceased her pinning and pulling and made a satisfied 'humph.' She handed Jaina a small mirror to assess her handiwork.
Her hair was gathered in a low chignon at the base of her neck, but unlike those worn on the wedding days of the common people, this one was sleek, carefully combed so that no hair upon her head was out of place. It was fastened at the top by a tasteful gold pin with leafwork and pearls that had been her mother's.
Though masterfully crafted, her hair was not pulled taut like that of a schoolteacher. Left instead was a long flowing lock that began at her brow and framed her face naturally before returning into the orderly bun at the nape of her neck.
She had initially wanted to leave it down, but after seeing herself in the mirror she was quite pleased with the results. She nodded and turned around to thank the woman, whose tall, thin frame seemed to almost tower over her. Her maidservant, plump and jolly as always, clasped her hands and brought them to her face, so pleased was she with her appearance.
'Honestly,' Jaina thought bemusedly, 'You'd think she was my mother.'
Sensing that her job was finished, the hairdresser took her leave, but not before her compensation was confirmed by her servant. As the door clicked softly shut, the maidservant traversed the room and retrieved a stack of unopened letters from her desk and brought them to Jaina to review.
She flipped through them quickly, more or less knowing of their contents: Late replies confirming or denying the attendance of those addressed. Her maidservant also handed her a tube far larger than need be to contain a human scroll. It was twice-sealed; the first to secure the container with twine, the second to ensure the security of the scroll itself. The wax was a telltale shade of oxblood red, sealed with a large thumbprint in the place of a family seal.
"Is it true that you invite him every year?" her maidservant inquired quietly, the vague 'him' understood between him.
"Yes, Esther" She said with mild exasperation, "And every year he politely declines." Jaina paused, absentmindedly opening the scroll, observing the large, but well penned script with only passing interest "You needn't be here," her eyes flashed up from the letter, "I can fetch my own letters."
Esther looked almost annoyed at being dismissed so early in the day, but she eventually caved.
"I hear there's going to be a magician for the children in the afternoon. You should take your grandson; I know how much you miss spending time with him." She said with a smile.
"Oh, Jaina," said Esther, forgetting titles for a moment, "Light Bless You."
"Go-on, go-on," Said Jaina smiling, waving the woman out of the room.
But before she closed the door, she poked her head back in and said, warily, "I heard from Bernice in housekeeping, who heard from Clara in the kitchens, who heard from the help that arrived from Stormwind -you know, that mousy looking one, Sarah- that King Varian has something big planned," She paused and gave her lady a sorrowful smile. "Just don't shoot him down too hard, okay? I thought I should warn you ahead of time, milady. Even if it is just kitchen gossip."
Jaina sighed, and then said dryly, her mouth curved into an exaggerated grimace "Do you think it is too late to arrange an assassination?"
Pained, who must have been sitting in the window for some time now added sarcastically, "Heh. His or yours?"
"At this point, either would be fine."
Esther snorted, her face attempting to maintain a chastising look though her eyes betraying her laughter, "You shouldn't say such things, milady. It's no joking matter." She gave Jaina a pointed look, and when the mage returned it, amused, Esther shook her head smiling, taking her leave, patting the door for good measure.
After her footsteps faded out of earshot, "Is she always this overbearing?," inquired Pained, her manner dry as usual.
"She's just concerned for my well being. Any news from abroad?"
"All's quiet as far as I can tell. Brackenwall has done nothing interesting in weeks, few to no suspicious types have come ashore by sea, just a half-orc and his buddy that got in a barfight with a few sailors down by Demonsbane Inn."
"Any report on the weather?"
"I'm a rogue, not a shaman. Why don't you ask your friend?" She said, tapping her finger on the now-forgotten scroll, just north of Thrall's signature.
"Fantastic. I'll just breach all national securities, port directly in front of his chair in Grommash Hold without any forewarning and ask, 'Hey, could you drop everything and check on the weather for me? It's not like you have anything better to do.'"
"Very funny," said Pained, "But everything seems to be going smoothly, so I'll be on alert. If nothing is falling apart, then something will surely go sour, and fast. I can just feel it."
Jaina sighed, "I wouldn't have it any other way."
"You know it." Was all the Night Elf replied before disappearing through the tower window, red morning light turning to white as the sun ascended into the sky.
Jaina, finished with her letters, conjured a tray of small cakes and a cup of honeymint tea to break her fast, though she was tempted to add a bit of liquid courage to tame her nerves. It was easy to remain calm in front of others; it was something she had been trained to do from birth. Remaining calm for herself was another matter entirely.