Arrows in My Quiver
Chapter One: Doral ana'diel?
Summary: Weary of believing that undead can experience nothing pleasurable, the Dark Lady takes a consort from the ranks of her Forsaken army. What she didn't know she also needed was reassurance of her people's faith in her.
Disclaimer: Characters, settings, etc. are the property of Blizzard Entertainment. Except for Anristina. She belongs to Sylvanas.
Author's Notes: I freely admit that I am a Sylvanas fangirl. Watching the video for "Lament of the Highborne" damn near makes me cry. Oh, um, relevant things…this story will make more sense if you've read Sylvanas Windrunner: Edge of Night and Arthas: Rise of the Lich King. Spoilers for those works if you haven't read them. What else, what else…this takes place after Sylvanas was killed but then resurrected by the val'kyr Arthura, Agatha, and Daschla.
I have headcanons about how undead work that Blizz probably wouldn't agree with. In fact, in lore terms, Sylvanas probably couldn't feel anyone kissing her. At first I felt so stupid about that that I felt like not writing anymore, but my muses are too strong, and they think that Sylvanas should be able to feel. Because how the hell else can she function if she can't?
Sylvanas Windrunner, Dark Lady and Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, was lying on a bedroll inside her tent, feeling immensely irritated. A priest, one of the Forsaken army's healers, stood over her, having insisted that she not retire with a gaping axe wound in her abdomen. Sylvanas fumed silently as she felt her flesh knitting together. It didn't help that Holy Light—the only spell that would work on Forsaken, of course—was exquisitely painful. She had long ago learned to remain completely still and unresponsive while being healed, but feeling as if her entire side was being steadily sawed at with a Flametongue-imbued short sword was not improving her mood. She had wanted to be alone; even the Dark Lady needed her privacy. What was the point? Mostly, she had to admit, she was annoyed that the healer was seeing her in the plain cloth robe she wore at night instead of her armor. She wasn't even wearing her hood. She had a reputation to uphold, dammit.
"My lady? You are quiet tonight. Is everything all right?"
Sylvanas snorted. Was everything all right…what kind of a question was that? The Forsaken plague had yet to be unleashed upon the Scourge and the permanent situation of the Forsaken on this continent was tenuous at best. No, everything was not bloody all right.
The wound in Sylvanas' side closed fully with a sharp twinge, and she gritted her teeth. There would be no scar. Mindlessly, Sylvanas bit down on one of her knuckles until her teeth nearly broke the pale blue skin. That barely hurt at all. Was her near-immunity to ordinary physical pain due to the fact that Arthas had subjected her to agony of the soul and now agony of the body was a mere afterthought, or was it because she was undead? The tastes of food and drink were dull to her now, as were colors. Everything was dull. Was dullness all she would experience until the torment that awaited her after death?
"The Dark Lady seems troubled. Is there anything I can do?"
Sylvanas nearly asked the priest to bring her something alcoholic to drink, something strong. She was still capable of intoxication, anyway. Not all pleasures were lost to her. Then again, there were pleasures she wasn't certain about. Undead always lost their innate drive to pursue sensual pleasure. Almost all undead still, well, functioned—magic could certainly accomplish quite a bit, except in the cases of undead men whose crucial bits had rotted away—but Sylvanas had never been able to bring herself to try. If she left the once warm, exciting place between her legs alone, there was still the hope that she could experience sexual pleasure again.
But perhaps the time to try was approaching. The alternative was to get blind drunk again, and that never turned out well. Again with the reputation needing to be upheld. High elves, particularly undead ones, had to drink obscene amounts of alcohol before they began to feel tipsy, but Sylvanas didn't trust herself to cut herself off in this particular mood, regardless of how much she'd have to drink.
Sylvanas rolled onto her other side to look at the woman who had been healing her. She was one of the new Forsaken, raised by the val'kyr. Obviously once human, and turned undead not long after she had first been buried; the only signs of decay were a few worn spots above each eyebrow, more like a fashion statement than the natural progression of decomposition. Did the new Forsaken artfully disfigure themselves with rot? Sylvanas had heard of such practices becoming vogue in Deathknell.
And Sylvanas had seen this particular priest before many a time. After the recent skirmishes, this woman had been constantly around when Sylvanas had needed healing. At first, Sylvanas had not been surprised; new Forsaken, particular the ones freshest out of the grave, tended to closely follow their new leader after they first met her because they were so gobsmacked with admiration. They got over it after a while, though, and moved on to serving the Forsaken in places other than Silverpine. The healer who had just taken care of her axe wound had been hanging around her longer than usual…long enough to make Sylvanas wonder if she harbored feelings other than the normal naïve reverence.
The priest had noticed Sylvanas was looking at her and quailed a bit under the Dark Lady's gaze. Sylvanas ignored this reaction and kept appraising her. She had been lucky in the change in her coloring following her transformation to Forsaken; her skin was a pearly pale blue and her hair was a black so dark it gave off an azure sheen. She was likely descended from hardy peasant stock, as her body had been firm and strong in life, with ample curves and appreciable muscles but no elegance or grace about her. She had none of the litheness of the quel'dorei, sin'dorei or even kal'dorei, and definitely not the unearthly pulchritude of the val'kyr. But Sylvanas, as a warrior, could appreciate the beauty in a body built for hard work. And the priest's face, Sylvanas noticed, was lovely, perhaps strikingly so. Most importantly, she had an interest in improving Sylvanas' mood, and possibly more than that.
Sylvanas stood, brushing a few dried leaves from her leggings. The priest backed away slightly, nervous, perhaps cowed. She did not flinch when Sylvanas reached out to cup one hand around the back of her neck, but there was anxiety in her glowing eyes.
"What is your name, healer?" Sylvanas made a conscious effort to make her cool voice seem sweeter, less threatening.
"My name is Anristina Vale, may it please Your Majesty."
Anristina. A surprisingly pretty name for a peasant. Quite pretty, really, and beginning with the letter "A", rather like the names of several of Sylvanas' lost val'kyr…Agatha, Arthura…Annhylde…
"It does please me." Sylvanas tightened her grip on the priest's neck and kissed her roughly. Gradations in temperature were lost to Sylvanas, but textures were not. Anristina's lips were full and soft. "It pleases me greatly," Sylvanas whispered against her captive's mouth.
The healer whimpered, in surprise more than protest, it seemed, as she returned Sylvanas' kiss shyly. She made no effort to escape, even when Sylvanas sank her teeth into her lower lip.
Both satisfied and titillated, Sylvanas broke off the kiss and almost carefully pushed Anristina up against one of the thick posts supporting the tent. "I find myself in need of the intimate caress of another," Sylvanas crooned into the priest's ear. "Will you serve your queen?"
"I will serve," Anristina managed to croak. At the uncertain sound, Sylvanas hesitated; was she to force herself on this woman? No, her Forsaken deserved better, particularly one who seemed to care for her well-being.
Sylvanas tried again, softening her voice. "Will you serve willingly, Anristina?"
This time there was a pause. "Yes, my lady."
"Good. Come with me." Sylvanas took her new conquest by the wrist and began leading her to the bedroll.
"Wait…please, Dark Lady, wait." Sylvanas paused to look into Anristina's worried face. The healer averted her eyes. "What if…what if I can't please you?"
She sounded terrified. That made sense; Sylvanas was known for her lack of mercy. So Sylvanas released the undead woman's wrist, trailing three fingertips up to her neck. "Then we will assume the state of my body is to blame. I ask much of you. I am not without understanding of that fact." The Banshee Queen leaned forward slowly and kissed Anristina to reassure her, more of a light brushing of lips than an actual kiss. "I will not harm you," she whispered.
Anristina nodded. "Thank you, your grace."
"You may refer to me as Sylvanas, if you wish," Sylvanas added. This woman deserved some claim to intimacy with her considering her request.
"Sylvanas." Anristina tried out the name as if she'd never spoken it before. That was unlikely, but of course the healer had never addressed Sylvanas so personally. She leaned forward until her cold cheek was pressed to the side of the Forsaken leader's face. "I am ready to serve you, Lady Sylvanas," she whispered into the pointed ear.
"Good," replied Sylvanas, almost purring. The knowledge that she was in complete control of her healer was quite…exhilarating. "With me, now."
Anristina obediently followed Sylvanas to her bedroll; Sylvanas lay on her back and Anristina knelt beside her. Anristina watched nervously as the Dark Lady pulled her sleeping gown up to her waist, despite leaving her thin cloth leggings on.
"Sylvanas…what must I do?" Anristina was clearly confused at how little Sylvanas was exposing herself, how she clearly wasn't interested in foreplay. Well, this wasn't intended to be a long, sweet lovemaking session; Sylvanas just wanted to know what her undead body was capable of at the most basic level. There could be more…experimentation later. Not to mention seeing her new partner submit so quickly and obediently counted as foreplay in Sylvanas' mind, at least in terms of how it was making her feel.
The Dark Lady moved her legs apart rather pointedly, her knees slightly bent. "I want you to touch me."
Anristina glanced ruefully at her hands, which were—typical of the Forsaken—claw-like and menacing. Sylvanas noticed her hesitation and was about to tell her not to worry about inflicting damage, but perhaps that sort of thing could wait. This was only a trial run, so to speak.
"Are you right- or left-hand dominant, my little healer?"
Sylvanas sat up and took hold of Anristina's right hand, curling it into something like a loose fist. She guided Anristina's hand down, brushing up the inside of her thigh, until the healer's knuckles were flush against the join of Sylvanas' lean, powerful legs. Anristina shivered. "My lady…"
Sylvanas stroked Anristina's wrist. "What's wrong?" She shifted her weight, pressing herself tightly against the pressure of Anristina's hand.
Anristina was shaking her head. "You are the queen of the Forsaken. I'm…I'm just a priest. I was raised from the dead to serve you, not to…to..."
"I have asked you to serve me intimately. You agreed." Sylvanas arched her spine, and this time Anristina pressed back. A promising sensation not unlike warmth spread through her groin. "Mmm…"
Anristina leaned over to kiss Sylvanas' cheek. "Please, my lady, tell me what you want."
"More pressure," Sylvanas breathed. "Stroke me. Quickly. Don't be afraid of hurting me. And…kiss me."
"Yes, Dark Lady."
Anristina obeyed beautifully, leaving a stream of kisses down Sylvanas' neck as she worked. The Banshee Queen writhed in pleasure beneath her touch, mouth slightly parted, panting softly though she had no need for air. She could feel pressure building within her, almost like she remembered from her days as a living elf. But it wasn't enough, not quite…
Sylvanas practically ripped the drawstring from her leggings and squirmed out of them. She heard Anristina stifle a gasp of surprise. "I want you inside me. Now."
Anristina looked at her clawed hands again, this time in horror. "But, Sylvanas, I don't want to hurt you!"
The sweet sensation inside her was fading without Anristina's touch; Sylvanas sat up and clasped her lover's hands between hers, summoning whatever knowledge of demonic magic her pleasure-addled brain could access, trying to force Anristina's hands into their original shape. She felt the knuckles pop back into shape, the fingernails re-form.
Anristina's eyes widened in astonishment and she flexed her newly humanoid hands, but she did not forget her assignment; her right quickly hand shot back to its original position, this time burying two of her fingers to the hilt into Sylvanas' body. A short breath more sigh than moan slipped past the Dark Lady's lips as Anristina caressed her deeply.
Sylvanas Windrunner let her eyes drift shut and her body do as it saw fit, her hips rocking in time with Anristina's strokes. The feelings were not as powerful as they had been when she was alive, but they were there, and then Anristina leaned up shyly to nuzzle and kiss her neck. Sylvanas gripped her new consort tightly, pulling the lovely body close, and oh it felt good to have the pressure and friction of another's body against hers, the strong, quick hand still working between her legs. Sylvanas felt circles of tension building and stacking and swelling inside her until the breaking point; she gasped sharply, falling back onto her bedroll, her mind swimming with sensations she thought she'd never feel again. She felt oddly warm, comfortable…at peace. Not quite happy, but soothed. Comforted. Content.
"My lady?" Anristina was still touching her hesitantly, obviously not having noticed that Sylvanas had climaxed, or at least come as close to it as a Forsaken could. "Sylvanas?"
Sylvanas took Anristina's hand and guided it away from her body. "You have served me well, Anristina."
Anristina's expression brightened. She lay down beside Sylvanas and kissed her cheek. "Did I please you?"
"Mmm-hmm." Sylvanas rolled onto her side and curled up slightly.
Anristina nuzzled the Banshee Queen's shoulder. "Victory for Sylvanas?" She whispered a trifle mischievously.
Sylvanas nearly laughed aloud. Oh, she liked this one. "I shall have to request more visits from you later."
"I would be honored." Anristina paused. "On one condition."
Sylvanas turned over, prepared to get angry, but her new lover's slightly arch tone stayed her temper.
Anristina bit her lower lip and her glowing eyes flickered momentarily—the undead version of sparkling, Sylvanas supposed. "Will my lady let me touch her ears?"
Sylvanas quirked an eyebrow, but after the places Anristina had just touched her, an ear-massage was reasonable…or at least it would seem so to one whose species name did not end with "dorei". Not to mention Sylvanas was perfectly aware how bitterly jealous non-elven races were of elves' beautiful ears. "Go ahead."
Anristina proved just as adept at ear-massaging as she had been at pleasure-giving. She lightly gripped the base of Sylvanas' left ear and ran her fingertips up and down its graceful length, carefully avoiding Sylvanas' many earrings, lightly stroking the pointed tip of the pinna. It reminded Sylvanas of when she was young, and still alive, and so vain she used to rub lotion onto her ears twice a day to keep the skin from flaking. "I was lucky to choose you for this."
"I know you don't mean massaging your ears." Anristina smiled tremulously. "But…I feel honored that you chose me, Dark Lady." Sylvanas was quiet, so Anristina continued. "I wouldn't have said…'lucky'. There are many among your Forsaken who would have given both their arms to be in my place tonight."
Sylvanas sniffed. "You didn't even get to see me undressed…at least entirely."
"That isn't what I mean, your grace. I mean…" Anristina paused, searching for the right words. While she thought, she reached up a hand to stroke the Banshee Queen's cheek. "Your Forsaken would fight to the death to defend you. Your Forsaken…love you."
Later, Sylvanas would blame the pleasure she had just experienced for the tears that came far too close to springing to her eyes; that and the fact that Anristina's light touch on her face felt so like the reassuring caress of Annhylde the val'kyr had when Sylvanas had lain, shattered and weeping, at the foot of the Lich King's throne. She ruled with an iron fist, relentlessly keeping the Scourge and Scarlet Crusade at bay, fighting to carve out a place for her Forsaken to be safe and permanently installed. Her followers respected her; that much she knew. Some admired her. Many of them feared her. But the last thing she was expecting to hear was that she was loved. She had thought that beyond the realm of the possible.
She would also later blame that feeling for acceding to Anristina's next request, which was that she undress completely. She removed her nighttime robe and lay quiet and still while Anristina cooed softly that she was beautiful, she was exquisite, she was the loveliest woman Anristina had ever laid eyes on, alive or no. Sylvanas felt lightly tripping fingers down one of her arms, accompanied by a whisper that she was not just lovely, but strong, a warrior in both heart and body. Sylvanas liked that; many depictions of her, in both pigment and stone, focused more on displaying her beauty than her strength despite the fact that the two could easily coexist. Still perhaps a bit afraid (or maybe because her hands had reverted to the Forsaken's usual claws), Anristina refrained from touching Sylvanas' naked body, preferring only to look; instead, she draped a blanket over the Dark Lady's half-sleeping form. Sylvanas could not feel cold, but she appreciated the gesture anyway. It was when Anristina whispered a good-night and made as if to leave that Sylvanas stopped her.
"I have given you little in return for the kindness you have afforded me tonight, Anristina." Sylvanas sat up, not bothering to keep the blanket from sliding off of her body. She wrapped her fingers around the healer's wrist again. "Tell me what pleases you."
Anristina was kneeling, but she managed to bow, clasping her hands together and avoiding eye contact. "It has never been my pleasure to be touched by another, my lady, not even in life." She sounded slightly panicked, as if afraid Sylvanas wouldn't believe her. It was strange, but not unheard of, so Sylvanas let the matter drop.
"Is there anything else you would like me to do for you?"
"No thank you, your majesty." Anristina dipped her head shyly.
Sylvanas was still basking in her happy lassitude and felt almost relaxed enough to sleep, which she hadn't done in years. Forsaken couldn't properly sleep, of course, but her apothecaries had created a type of incense that could lull a Forsaken into a state of deep meditation that was not unlike sleep. Even dream-like experiences were possible…and if Sylvanas did "sleep" that night, she might even not have the nightmares that had previously kept her from trying to rest nightly as she had done while alive. "You are dismissed with my thanks."
"Will my lady permit me to kiss her good night first?"
Sylvanas didn't see why not. "Yes."
Anristina leaned over and pressed her mouth to the Dark Lady's. She was gentle; not just timid, but kind. It cost Sylvanas nothing to return to the gesture, so she did so, surprised to find that the sensation was rather enjoyable.
"It feels strange, doesn't it, to kiss without warmth?" Anristina mused.
"Strange," Sylvanas agreed, "but not unpleasant."
"Lady Sylvanas…did you mean it when you said you would be requesting my…company again?"
"I don't make a habit of saying things I don't mean." Sylvanas didn't add, Except to Garrosh Hellscream and his generals.
Sylvanas got the distinct impression that if Anristina still had flowing blood, she would have blushed. "I will see you then, Dark Lady." Anristina stood and headed for the tent's entrance.
Anristina looked over her shoulder expectantly.
"I also expect your discretion in this matter."
Anristina nodded vigorously. "Of course. I'll say nothing of what happened tonight."
Satisfied, Sylvanas turned on her side, trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. She didn't quite remember how she liked to sleep. Ah, well, she would have to get up to find an incense burner anyway.
Anristina spoke her name with an uncommon softness Sylvanas hadn't heard in a long, long time, if ever. When most people spoke her name, it was a bellicose "Victory for Sylvanas!" Hearing that gave her a kind of fierce rush, a brief reassurance that her people supported her. But those reactions paled in comparison to how she felt when she heard Anristina sheath the pronunciation of her name in a feathery kindness.
No, there would be no nightmares tonight.
Sylvanas was woken the following morning by the soft chiming of a proximity charm that she kept near the entrance to her tent. She reached immediately for her bow, which she never allowed out of reach; of course, her tent was in the safest area of the camp, but the Banshee Queen couldn't be too careful. Not to mention she was completely unused to sleeping.
"My lady? I presume the charm woke you…it's me. Anristina."
Sylvanas momentarily closed her eyes in annoyance. She'd been having a very pleasant dream about the blissful oblivion death might have been for her had Arthas not raped her soul. A familiar twinge of the old rage rose within her. Arthas was dead, but she doubted her anger would ever fade, even after every Scourge minion was a pile of crumbling, inanimate bones and her Forsaken were safely installed in the ruins of Lordaeron and beyond.
"Come in, Anristina."
"I'm sorry I woke you, Dark Lady." Anristina bent her head in supplication.
Sylvanas waved off the apology. "It's not as if I need sleep." But then she cut straight to the point. "What do you require?" Briefly she wondered if she should have made her intentions toward Anristina clearer the previous night. She didn't want to upset one of her useful healers—particularly as she was quite looking forward to having Anristina as a consort—but she was looking for nothing beyond the physical. Horde faction leaders could not afford to have that sort of fatal weakness. Not to mention Sylvanas had closed and locked the door on romance years ago, and no magic—arcane or emotional—was undoing that.
"I had noticed that you do not keep personal servants. I thought, if I am to be your…consort…I could perhaps assist you in other ways."
Interesting that she had chosen the exact term for herself that Sylvanas would have used. Sylvanas remained silent, waiting for Anristina to be more specific.
"Do you have no one to help you get into your armor?"
Ah. So she was looking for another excuse to see Sylvanas naked. Well, at least she wasn't asking for love and kisses. "I prefer my privacy." She made sure the tent flap was closed before standing, enjoying the irony in the action; the blanket slid off of her, and she was of course wearing nothing underneath. She fought back a smile at the way Anristina gazed at her both shyly and hungrily. When it came to her people as a whole, she wanted to be a respected leader, not a lust object, but sometimes it was nice to be admired. She was growing more and more fond of this consort idea by the minute.
Sylvanas kept few possessions. Life—or undeath, rather—as the leader of a faction expanding its borders was easier that way. What little she had was kept in an ordinary-looking Embersilk bag with more enchantments on it than notches on a libertine's bedpost. She withdrew a fresh pair of leggings and the comfortable (if small) garment she wore beneath her decorative chest-piece; if Anristina wanted to touch her naked skin by helping her dress, she had better have the guts to ask. She had no cause to be afraid; Sylvanas was the one who had approached her in the first place, and they had been intimate the previous night. Sylvanas had even let Anristina touch her ears, for Belore's sake.
Sylvanas was not anticipating a battle that day—perhaps a few light skirmishes at most—so she collected the pieces of the decorative armor she wore day-to-day and handed them to Anristina. She had a set of full-plate, of course—her death by Frostmourne had been an impalement through the abdomen; she was not so foolish as to leave her midriff exposed when she was truly in danger—and that genuinely did require help to put on. Of course, she was always fully dressed (and more covered than she was on a quotidian basis) when she requested such assistance.
To her credit, Anristina quickly figured out how fastenings of Sylvanas' armor worked and had her fully dressed in little time. Sylvanas was almost impressed. She was even more impressed with Anristina's self-control, as the healer was obviously struggling against her desires to simply fasten the elaborate pieces onto Sylvanas' body without letting her hands wander. But Anristina finally faltered while she worked on one of the shoulder pieces; from behind her, Sylvanas felt Anristina lean forward to nuzzle and kiss her throat.
Sylvanas whirled on Anristina angrily. "My body is not yours to fondle whenever you see fit. I may have chosen you for my bed-warmer, but I am still your queen, and you will ask permission before making such advances."
Anristina pressed her palms together in a gesture of deference and apology. "Forgive me, my lady, I was weak." She glanced up almost coyly. "And you are…immensely beautiful."
Sylvanas knew perfectly well she was being flattered, but it was also patent that Anristina believed what she was saying. "Forgive me for snapping."
"Forgiven." Anristina paused. "May I kiss you, Dark Lady?"
Sylvanas recalled Anristina's cheeky request to touch her ears the previous night, and it gave her an idea. "On one condition." Anristina looked confused, so Sylvanas continued. "You acknowledge that I gave you permission to use my name."
Anristina failed to fight back a smile. "May I kiss you, Sylvanas?"
Instead of replying with words, Sylvanas clutched her consort close and kissed her hard and deep, not as roughly as she had the previous night, but not softly either. Anristina buried her hands in Sylvanas' hair, either too shy to place them anywhere else or trying to sneakily play with Sylvanas' ears again. Sylvanas dug her fingertips into Anristina's back; that yielded a sharp cry of pain. Sylvanas pulled away. "What's wrong?" Something had to be genuinely harmful to cause a Forsaken to experience pain.
Anristina looked abashed. "Forgive me. My back has been…irksome ever since I was raised by your val'kyr. Sometimes I have trouble moving."
Sylvanas pressed almost gently on the place that had made Anristina cry out and found the flesh hard as rock. "Rigor mortis. It should have been reversed when you were raised, but sometimes it lingers." Sylvanas walked to her bedroll, beckoning. "Come here. I can fix that."
Anristina followed, looking nervous. Sylvanas motioned for her to lie down; she did, casting anxious glances over her shoulder. Sylvanas knelt beside Anristina and began methodically unlacing the back of Anristina's gown.
"Sylvanas?" Anristina sounded petrified. "What are you doing?"
Sylvanas said nothing; if Anristina was going to be her consort, she would learn soon enough that she could trust Sylvanas. Instead of speaking, she gave a little backhanded caress to the healer's shoulder blades and—after giving herself a few moments to admire how shapely and muscular Anristina's back was—worked her hands up and down, side to side until she found the place where the muscle was most tightly knotted and stiff. Sylvanas situated the heels of her hands firmly against the skin and spoke.
"This will feel strange."
And then she sent a pulse of low-intensity healing energy—she was capable of some re-shaping, but not nearly as much as a priest—through Anristina's lower back, pressing down as hard as she could. There was a loud crunch and Anristina yelped in surprise, her body jerking.
"Easy, my little healer. Easy." Sylvanas carefully kneaded the newly tenderized flesh with her fingertips, working out the last of the stress. "Does that feel any better?"
Anristina looked up at Sylvanas with a tiny smile. "Yes, thank you, my l—Sylvanas."
The pulse of magic had worked out most of the stiffness in Anristina's back, but there was still work to be done. Sylvanas curled her hands into fists and massaged the firm flesh with her knuckles, trying to ease out the rest of the remaining rigor mortis. She found herself wondering how many of her Forsaken who were actively fighting still suffered from residual rigor mortis. How problematic was that? If her warriors, rogues and hunters didn't have full range of motion, that was a severe disadvantage. Why hadn't healing magic cured the rigor mortis, then? Anristina was a healer and she'd had a massive knot in her back. But perhaps Sylvanas could instruct her healers to work on a cure for post-recruitment rigor mortis.
Sylvanas was jerked out of her reverie by the sound of Anristina's voice. Sylvanas had kept massaging her consort's back while she was thinking, and Anristina seemed to enjoy it. Really, she seemed to enjoy it immensely, if the noises she was making were any indication. She wasn't just crying out softly, either; she was moaning as if Sylvanas was doing something entirely different to her.
Sylvanas leaned over to whisper in Anristina's ear. "When I asked you for discretion, I didn't think I would have to make a similar request for while you are in my presence."
"I'm sorry." Anristina sounded rather breathless, despite the fact that she didn't need to breathe. "Was I too loud?"
"One might say that."
"I'm sorry," said Anristina again. "That just feels wonderful. You have strong hands."
"Well, archers with weak hands don't tend to have much success." Sylvanas continued massaging Anristina's back; Anristina closed her eyes, and Sylvanas nearly smiled at the expression of utter bliss on her consort's face. "I think most of the stiffness is gone. You should be feeling better now."
"I'll say," Anristina mumbled, and Sylvanas came far too close to laughing.
"Anristina, I have an assignment for you."
Anristina looked up expectantly.
"Speak with other Forsaken healers about rigor mortis. See if you can develop a quick and effective way to rectify it. If my fighters are being slowed down by it, it could be a serious detriment." Sylvanas thought for a moment. "Also, see if you and the others can see if there is any correlation between rigor mortis and time or location of raising. Who raised you? Was it Aradne?" All of the val'kyr were Sylvanas' sisters now, but after Agatha had sacrificed herself to return Sylvanas from death following Godfrey's back-stabbing, Aradne had taken over Agatha's Forsaken-recruiting duties at Deathknell and Sylvanas suspected she was having some trouble. After all, Aradne was the youngest val'kyr still active.
Anristina thought about that for a moment. "No…Aradne was there when I was raised, but it was Verdandi who spoke to me. I think she was the one who raised me."
Sylvanas considered that. Verdandi had done plenty of work raising corpses to become Forsaken in Silverpine Forest and had recently been reassigned to Deathknell. She certainly knew what she was doing, but she was also a lesser val'kyr. Were the lesser val'kyr less adept at recruiting Forsaken than the original eight? "Perhaps I should tell the undertakers to ask newly risen Forsaken if they are still suffering from rigor. They might be able to replace less crucial appendages affected by rigor, but back muscles…hmm…"
"I first spoke to Undertaker Mordo," Anristina mused. "He had to replace one of my knees." Her brow furrowed. "I remember seeing some of the new undead shamble off and become mindless, and some started an ill-fated attempt to start another undead faction…but one warrior reported to Mordo obediently, and then…" Anristina shook her head. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
"What?" Sylvanas asked warily. "Did she ask Mordo for something…unusual?" She had heard of new undead, driven mad from the revelation of their new fate, doing truly gruesome and bizarre things to their bodies. Never good for the reputation of the Forsaken.
"She danced?" That was new. Forsaken were not wont to dance.
"She danced with Mordo. It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen, and I've seen some strange things since being recruited to your ranks." Anristina cocked her head to one side, thinking. "I think her name was…Maggie? Molly? Magda? Something like that, but really unusual."
"Hrmm. Well, I'll keep an eye out for her. She might be a bit addled, and a rotbrain with a greatsword is not somebody I need running around." Sylvanas sighed and stood up. "You have your assignment. You are dismissed. Let me know what you find out."
Anristina got up and re-laced the back of her priest's robe. "Yes, my lady. And thank you again. My back feels much better." Suddenly Anristina grinned. "Perhaps you could arrange a Forsaken massage regimen for those who still suffer from rigor to help heal each other."
Forsaken as a race didn't joke much, but Sylvanas could tell Anristina was kidding. It was odd, but not unwelcome, to hear one of her undead actually tell a joke, or at least one other than the worn "they're not mine, but they're real". "It's a good thing I don't often sleep. That image would haunt my nightmares."
Anristina laughed out loud, half in amusement, half in surprise that the famously cold and stoic Dark Lady had actually said something deliberately funny. She immediately silenced herself, eyeing Sylvanas with something like fear.
"Anristina, please stop looking at me like I'm going to cannibalize you. You can laugh."
Anristina smiled again. "Sorry, Dark La—Sylvanas. It's a bit difficult to go from revering you from a distance to being so familiar so quickly."
Sylvanas nodded. "As I said, report back to me after speaking with the other healers. And ask Apothecary Putrescine if he's noticed a rigor mortis problem if you have time."
"I will." Anristina hesitated at the tent's entrance. "When would you like me to report back to you?"
"Tonight." Sylvanas paused. "No, strike that—every night."
Anristina's eyes glowed a bit brighter than usual for a moment. "I will see you then, my lady."
Sylvanas let that one slide because Anristina was halfway out the door and it wouldn't do to let others hear Anristina speaking too informally. "Al diel shala. Safe travels."
A/N: Blame the plot bunnies. I like writing about the Forsaken, and I'm growing really fond of Anristina.