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Note: This story is a sequel to "Comfort" but can be read as a stand-alone. Spoilers for Andorhal questlines. ** Happy Valentine's Day!
It wasn't as unpleasant as his first visit to Stormwind as a representative of the newly formed Ebon Blade had been, of course: back then he'd been spit at and pelted with garbage as he carried Darion's missive to the King. Now he saw dozens of his kind in the city, moving unharassed among the ordinary citizens. Completely accepted.
Except … every death knight he saw was alone. Not a single one was wrapped in the warm camaraderie of any of the dozens of groups in the streets of the Trade District, and while no rotting food was being thrown, matrons still gathered their children closer whenever his dark-armored figure passed.
Thassarian couldn't blame them. He knew he was a monster.
He could have avoided it, of course: the others he'd been fighting with at the Front had suggested that he fly directly to the Keep, or wait until after nightfall to enter the city, but skulking in wasn't Thassarian's style.
Not to mention, it wasn't every day a death knight received a direct summons from the Prince.
Anduin met him at the entrance to the Keep and said, "Let's walk."
With two guards in front and two following, they climbed a dark spiraling stairway up a tower as Anduin asked how the battle was going.
"I don't mean to be rude," Thassarian said as they stepped out onto the Keep's parapet and into the daylight, "but you certainly didn't call me here for a battle report."
Anduin shook his head. "You're right. I'm used to circling around the point for a while before I land."
"Diplomacy isn't necessary with me."
"It's a tough habit to break," Anduin said easily, sounding much older than his fifteen years. "I heard the story – well, I assume it's only part of the story – of what happened in Andorhal."
"I thought you could tell me the rest of it."
Thassarian had a hunch that the Prince had something in mind, something he wasn't ready to reveal just yet. Most men would have looked away at that point in the conversation, to keep their intent secret – but not Anduin. He looked Thassarian in the eye and said, "Or rather, I thought you could tell me if I read between the lines accurately. I know some are calling you a traitor, others that you're not competent to lead, but it sounds to me as though rather than fight two enemies at once, you offered the Horde's commander a temporary truce so that both sides could focus on their common enemy."
"And because of his actions your friend was dragged away to Undercity? And you followed and practically got yourself hacked to pieces trying to go in after him?"
"Yes." Thassarian clenched his jaw. "But what's the point of – "
"I have a plan," Anduin said, "to get him out."
Thassarian was stunned. "Why would someone like you get involved?"
"You're an Alliance citizen."
Grimacing, Thassarian replied, "No, let's be honest, your Highness. There's more to it than that."
Smiling, Anduin explained his plan. It was so audacious that Thassarian couldn't decide if the boy was brilliant or deranged. "You're – you can't just – we'll all die."
"No, we won't." Anduin, beaming, seemed amused by Thassarian's reaction. "We can accomplish this with no deaths. On either side."
Oh, so that was it? Was the boy was on a mission? If so, the daring made sense. "To prove a point? To your father?"
"It'll be proof of what the Light can accomplish," the prince said calmly.
Thassarian shook his head. Anduin had faith, that was certain, but – well, he was the Prince of Stormwind, after all. Thassarian couldn't allow him to participate. "Your priestly training is good for many things, I'm sure, but not for something like this. It's too dangerous."
"Oh? What are priests good for, in your opinion?" Anduin asked. He didn't seem angry, or frustrated, or any of the other reactions Thassarian could remember having at fifteen when adults had stymied his grand plans.
"Healing, and … " Thassarian waved a hand, trying to remember. "Giving sermons. Leading prayers. Priestly things."
"Like absolution? Solace? Hope?" Anduin asked.
Anduin's expression was so patient and accepting that Thassarian couldn't stand it. Clearly he had no idea of the things that Thassarian had done – what all of Arthas' knights had done – because if he had, he wouldn't be offering to risk his life for them. Thassarian was determined to change Anduin's mind, show him how undeserving death knights were of anything but reproach, and so he began to tell him how he had to avoid his sister Leryssa for fear he might lose control and harm her someday. About how he had been the one to mercilessly kill and turn Koltira, as well as dozens of others. When Anduin's eyes stayed warm and non-judgmental Thassarian kept going, talking of the hundreds of soldiers he'd killed, and the civilians, unarmed teens and women and children, all the innocents he'd fed to the Lich King's Scourge. In desperation he finally confessed that he'd killed his mother, Vivian. "She begged for her life. Begged, and I cut her head off." He was shaking, but of course there were no tears … because tears had been lost years ago, in a frigid cave in Northrend. "I told you," he said to Anduin. "We don't deserve forgiveness."
And then, the boy – the prince, the priest – said, "You're wrong." His eyes were still gentle, but his voice was firm. "This guilt eating at you proves that you never truly lost your humanity or your soul. The Light will welcome you, if you choose to return to it."
Thasssarian looked away, unable to say more.
Anduin put his hand on Thassarian's shoulder. "Tell me when you're ready."
"I've been ready," Thassarian said. "Let's go."
Anduin told Thassarian that the group would assemble on a small island near the northern shore of Lordamere Lake, just south of the outer walls of the ruins of Terenas' castle. Thassarian arrived a hour or so before the disguised Anduin and his dwarf death knight bodyguard, a stern female named Reiko, came riding silently across the water.
"This is it? Just we three?"
"No," Anduin whispered, "One will report to us here. Two are inside Undercity."
"Three," Reiko said. "She insisted."
Anduin looked at her sharply. "She's stubborn."
They hunkered down to wait behind a small hilly mound that hid them from any idle observers. The night air was filled with the sounds of gently lapping water, crickets, and the occasional far-off hoot of an owl.
After an hour had passed there was a low trill of birdsong. Anduin raised his hand, signaling Thassarian and Reiko to hold their blades, and made a soft clicking noise. There was an almost imperceptible shift in the darkness, and then a shadow was crouched at Anduin's feet. "Twenty royal Forsaken dreadguards," the shadow whispered. "Fourteen in the passage, six in the room. The elf ambassador, his bodyguard, and the clan emissaries withdraw by midnight. The Kor'kron Captain Bloodfist will be the only non-Forsaken in the room."
"Koltira?" Anduin asked.
"Leashed to a pillar near Sylvanas. A thin chain, easily broken."
"Leashed?" Thassarian had been grateful that Anduin had been the one to ask about Koltira, but the waiting had worn on him. "Why hasn't he broken it and escaped?"
"He …" The rogue turned to Thassarian, her face barely perceptible in the shadows. "He cannot," was all she said. Her voice was so emotionless that he was flooded with dread.
"Thank you," Anduin said, and handed her something. "Now go. You have risked far too much."
"Once seen, never forgotten," she said. "Light be with you, Prince Wrynn."
And then she was gone.
Anduin took something from a bag at his belt and placed it on the ground. After a quarter of an hour it began to glow slightly. "That's our signal," he said.
Thassarian set his runeblades down near Reiko and then ran across the water to the towering Undercity wall. As he reached it he could feel Anduin looking through his eyes.
Anduin had said that the other death knight would be almost directly underneath him, and so they were: when Thassarian reached down with his mind he felt a half-familiar consciousness brush his. An instant later Thassarian-and-Anduin's vision blurred, and then they were in a narrow corridor, seeing through a female death knight's eyes as she walked into Sylvanas' chamber. Thassarian could feel the weight of a heavy weapon across her back, and as she lifted her hand to tug nervously at her ear he saw her hands. Three fingered Troll hands.
A few feet ahead a blood elf couple glanced at the troll, nodded almost imperceptibly, then climbed the steps to Sylvanas' dais.
"Halt! What business have you here at this hour?" a harsh orc voice bellowed, and a moment later Anduin's Shackle took hold of the death knight and every Forsaken in the room.
Thassarian had been prepared for it to hurt, but strangely enough the agony that his body on the surface endured as the conduit for Anduin's spell was like a faint echo in another room, completely out-shouted by the troll death knight's genuine panic at her body's complete immobility.
Thassarian and Anduin watched through the troll's eyes as the blood elf priest, who had reached the top of the steps, shimmered and become a draenei female. Her hands were haloed with white and black light as the Kor'kron captain lifted his huge axe.
And then the orc froze, his eyes glazed. After a moment he turned stiffly and walked to a pillar at the back of the platform and brought down his axe on something out of sight. There was a faint metallic sound, and he swung again, two, three, four times, then dropped the axe and sat down.
The blood elf mage – who had transformed into a male gnome – finished casting something at the doorway behind the troll then polymorphed the orc. "None of this will hold them for long," he said.
"I know," the draenei said. She held her hands out to the troll. "Hurry, please. See through my eyes now."
There was a bitter laugh from somewhere to Thassarian's right, out of his field of vision. "Don't worry. I'll make sure your deaths are entertaining."
It was Sylvanas' voice, and yet – it was not. There was something … I have heard that voice before, Thassarian thought just before his vision blurred again. But not since ...
Now Thassarian and Anduin were looking through the draenei priest's eyes. They saw the troll deathknight – and all the Royal Dreadguard – shackled on the lower ring of the room, and saw the enormous block of ice that blocked the doorway. Behind it were wavering forms and the flash of firebolts.
As the priest turned Thassarian saw Sylvanas watching them. A malicious rictus twisted her mouth, and her eyes burned red with fury.
That's not her … Thassarian started to think, but then he saw Koltira, what the monster that called itself Sylvanas had done to Koltira, and in his rage almost lost his connection to the room.
Later he realized how fortunate it was that Anduin and the draenei had been able to channel his emotion into a second mass shackling – one that completely surrounded Sylvanas in a blazing cage of Light – but at the time all he could see was Koltira's nearly skeletal form, his mutilated face. The draenei's hand came into view, reaching down inside the shackle, holding a tiny radiant crystal which she touched to Koltira's forehead.
There was a blinding light, and a shriek, and the shackles around Koltira dissolved. As he looked up at them with astonished blue eyes – the eyes of the high elf he had been in life – the swirl of a mage portal bloomed behind him ...
Outside, Reiko was standing next to Thassarian. "I'm taking over now," she said.
Thassarian squinted through the darkness, finally feeling the crushing force of the shackle that held him – and though him every undead in Sylvanas' throne room. He thought he could see several forms moving on the tiny island next to Anduin, but he was constricted too tightly to speak.
"Where is he?" A new voice – a voice Thassarian hadn't heard in years, a voice he'd first heard at An'owyn, and then in the forests of Quel'thalas, and finally in front of the gates of Silvermoon – came across the water, and then Thassarian heard splashing, and a moment later they were gathered around him – Anduin, the draenei, the gnome … and Koltira.
Thassarian's eyes burned at the sight, and his vision blurred. "Get out," he gasped. "Shackle – can't hold."
"I'm not leaving you," Koltira said. "I'm staying."
"No you're not, you thundering git," Reiko said to Koltira as the mage opened a portal that spilled the firefly sparks of Stormwind's streetlamps over them. "I'm getting in the crib, and you and this great lump of mush are going to jump in the magic hole."
"You can't – " Thassarian started to say.
"Oh, so you think you're the only one who has bonds?" she whispered angrily. "That's my girl down there you borrowed, and she'll have her tusks in my ass if I don't get you five out of here!" And with that she leapt into the shackle with Thasssarian. "C'mon now, yer Highness, while Ishanah's naaru pebble still has some juice! Get him going!"
Anduin nodded, and held up the crystal.
Later Thassarian sat and watched Koltira sleep, a miracle in the pre-dawn light, and marveled once again at the gift they'd been given. The last few hours had changed so many things, literally given them a second life, a life so new and raw that he could hardly believe that it was real. He suspected that Anduin had resurrected them back at Velen's instruction, but for what reason he could not even begin to guess. He would find out in time, he supposed. For now, nothing mattered but this moment, and so he slid under the covers and spooned against Koltira's back. As the elf stirred Thassarian put an arm across him and kissed his shoulder, breathing deep to take in the faint scent of his skin, then pressed a trail of kisses from shoulder to neck.
"I've got you now," he said. "There's no escape. I won't let you go again."
"Is that so?" Koltira asked sleepily, but Thassarian could hear the smile in his voice.
~ the end ~
Author's notes at my Dreamwidth and LiveJournal (URLs in my profile).
first post 14 Feb 2012; rev 3 Dec 2016