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[Added to Timeline] Memento Mori [Vel Snapshots]

#1
Part One


The silence was simultaneously comforting and deafening.

For a time, Velameestra had tried to quietly consol the avian mount she sat astride. The thick down of the hawkstrider’s feathers was warm against the chill of the Northrend day, and once she had attempted to risk gently touching her hand against the side of the creature’s neck.

The way it shuddered at her touched stopped any further attempts, her hand instead returning to a loose grip on the reins in her lap.

If her companions noted the attempts, they made no acknowledgement of them. Briefly, the elf debated requesting a pause so that she could summon a creature less unnerved by her presence, but the notion died in her throat.

Perhaps in part because she didn’t want to interrupt the grim procession.

Perhaps in part because the unsettled creature served as a convenient distraction to her racing mind.

There’s still no doubt.

Her eyes flickered up to the cloaked rider ahead. Her aunt’s golden hair was obscured by a dark hood--protection against the light of an overcast day--and the ranger-captain’s gaze was the rough path through the trees.

Vel had never known Alleria well. The tenday of daily contact had been the most interaction she ever had with her eldest aunt, and much of it had been spent in companionable silence or research-centric focus, but that did little to diminish the kinship that had been found.

Nor the worry behind Alleria’s initial rebuttal of her niece’s request. Worry that had never ceased, but instead simmered to a resolute acceptance.

She was the only one that would be burying her niece twice.

Why is the lack of doubt what scares me?

The corner of Vel’s lip disappeared beneath her teeth, her eyes falling once more to the heavily plumed head of the hawkstrider. Kael’thas was riding close behind her, with the dark-haired Grand Magister at the rear. Rommath, too, had initially fought her decision, only to relent once he saw the conviction behind it.

The pattern had been the same with Elissa. Then Uther. Then Remnii.

All wreathed in concern, but ultimately accepting.

Alleria had fought the most.

The young mage’s thumb absently ran along the cool metal of the ring on her finger. Even Kel’Thuzad’s pragmatic warnings had caused no waver.

There was no telling what her loved ones back home would say when they inevitably discovered what she had chosen to become. Despite Alleria’s own anecdote, the mage had convinced herself that her family would realize they were both still who they always were.

As long as they were allowed to be.

After all, for as long as Vel could recall, she had always been closer to death than she ever had been to life. Ever since it’s shadow had entered her life and refused to leave.

Even if others had failed to see it.

Her fingertips brushed the polished stones woven into the cord along her wrist--cyan flanked by emerald and sapphire--and she felt her heart stop.

I miss them.

The acknowledgement came unbidden, her wandering mind left to meander through a quagmire of her thoughts as thick as the dark fir trees and foliage that rose on either side of their procession: the still-fresh goodbyes, despite the passage of weeks, and the warm, familiar song of the lullaby that had steadily bled into her subconscious.

She was only distantly made aware that Alleria’s hawkstrider had stopped.

But Sylvanas was right. We will wake our people, and our family, from this nightmare.

Vel looked at the tree that rose before them, the roots of the breached trunk twisting around the cliff face in the form of an open, dark maw.

And none of us will be alone.
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#2
Part Two



“I’m merely here to supervise and bear witness. Please.”

Vel’s transfixed focus shattered as the king--her king’s--voice broke the somber silence. It was the first time he had spoken since the small group had started their procession from Vengeance Landing, and immediately her eyes were drawn to him as he gestured to the site that she had chosen as her grave.

“After you,” Alleria prompted nere a moment after, and the sound of the woman’s low, newly familiar timbre drew her focus just as readily.

I’m going to die.

The thought came unbidden and remarkably calm despite the dawning, instinctual fear that had started to seep from the shadows of her subconsciousness and crash fruitlessly against the barrier of her own conviction.

She knew it showed on her face. It was an ever-present curse that her icy, cool countenance was fragile in times of duress. The cracks in its veneer could be seen in the way her ears were pressed against the side of her skull, and the slight part in her lips that allowed even a fraction more of the life-giving air that could fuel her body to run.

But she didn’t.

Vel’s eyes hovered on her aunt, the shadow of fear dissipating under the cold light of her own resolution--fueled by a nod of affirmation as she turned toward the tree.

”Vel. I've heard some terrible things. Are you alright? Please tell me you can hear this."

Rhonin’s voice cut through her thoughts like a knife, the brewing terror in his words just as real as it had been when she first heard them.

The distance between herself and the dark abyss of the hollow felt like it went on for eternity.

"This isn't a funny joke, kiddo. I know you wouldn't let this out of your sight. You said you'd be back."

How much would the joy of having her back overwrite the fear?

"How dare you?  I wanted Mom back... but I never said I would trade for her.  I'm going to keep getting better.  Just you watch."

How much would the joy of having her back overwrite the anger?

The mage could barely hear Alleria as she followed her into the shadow of the hollow, the older woman’s footfalls scarcely shadows on the leaf-strewn ground.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Rommath’s dark figure slide into the shadows, his raven hair becoming one with the penumbra, but her eyes were on Alleria’s shadowed face, and the glimmer of emerald eyes beneath her hood.

Her aunt’s hand felt almost warm against her cold fingers.

“Are you ready?” Alleria asked.

"It's dark, Vel.  What do I do?  What can I do?  All my life, the Light was with me... but I'm alone now. And I'm so scared."

How much would the joy of having her back overwrite the sorrow?

Vel tightened her grip on Alleria’s hand as she pulled the veil of white hair from her face, revealing the bare, deathly pale flesh obscured beneath.

“Yes,” she replied, her voice barely a whisper and yet deafening in the dark.

The elf allowed herself to be pulled into an embrace, her body pressed against the molded leather of her aunt’s armor. Velameestra tilted her head, further exposing the flesh of her throat as she struggled to keep her breaths steady.

She could see Kael’thas in the doorway, the light of the outside world surrounding his shadowed form like a halo of fire. For an instant, her mind was thrust back to the burning carnage of their home, and the screams of elves falling beneath orcish blades.

To the bodies, still warm upon the ground where they were found.

To the maniacal, cackling visage of the Traitor before a roiling portal.

Even as she set her lips in resolution, the tips of Alleria’s fangs against her throat and her hands buried deep in the fabric of her coat, Velameetra could feel the cool trickle of a tear slide down the side of her face, her pale, luminous eyes locked on the symbol of the people she had failed.

But in her final words, her voice remained strong.

“For the Sin’dorei.”

Like a stake through her heart, she felt fangs pierce flesh.
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#3
Part Three

It was dark.

Everything... was dark.

Were her eyes open? She didn’t know. Her senses felt numb. Cold, but simultaneously devoid of feeling. All that she could feel was the crushing weight of terror weighing around her like clothes in icy water--dragging her further and further into a darkness that was all-encompassing.

Was this death?

Was this…

She could barely hold her thoughts. They were drifting away--ephemeral threads in a world of inky blackness. 

Was this the cage?

She thought it would be brighter.

She thought she would be…

Ḁ̵̹̬̰͑ ̸̧̹̬̟̦̲̄̿͘l̵̟̩̘̔̉̅ ̵͔̼̙̬̈́̾̅͒ơ̷̈́ͅ ̵̯̓̂̀͘͘͝n̵͕̹̙͔̰̤͋̉̿ ̴̜̑̽̐͗̚ȩ̶̣̥̣̈́͊̂͘.̷̢͕̣̲̎͑.̸͕̩͇̭͓̀͂̒͌͝

There were voices.

Weeping.

She was crying.

They were crying. Dozens of voices. Or one. She couldn’t tell. Her thoughts were slipping away as soon as she could form them. They were being swallowed, consumed, by an endless, dark abyss.

Minn’da.

The word formed in her mind, and the dread deepened, dragging her further into the suffocating darkness. No matter how she twisted, she could not see. Her hands clawed at nothing. Even her own body--her own face--was nothing. She could hear her. Her mother. Her mother was here. She was crying. She had to find her. They had to be--

It.. failed.

She had no heart, but she felt it plummet. It too drowned in the dark, slipping away from her being and becoming lost to the void.

”Minn’da!?” Vel shrieked, her voice substanceless and yet dripping with desperation. It was lost in the dark. She wanted to scream. She tried to claw through the curtain of black, but it hung on her intangible form like millions of chains, dragging her deeper, and deeper.

She couldn’t reach her. She was there but she couldn’t see her. She could hear her, but she couldn’t touch her.

She wanted to scream. She wanted to run. To find her. To be together. They wouldn’t be alone. They couldn’t be alone. They had to see more than just--

R̷̲̣̿̄̑̔͝ ̶̥̳͓̖͕͇͝ẻ̵̲̟͇̮̅́͘͠ ̸̦̇̈͑̏̀d̵̢͎͚̤͙͔̂.̷̨̋͑́̓͘

If she had eyes, she would have been blind. The darkness had torn, ripped away by the crimson color of fury and blood.

It hurt. Her vision was in agony, but she couldn’t flinch away. She couldn’t return to the dark. She couldn’t close her eyes.

All she could do was scream. Agony. Despair. Desperation. It was a shriek of a thousand voices.

She could hear her mother. She could feel her wails cut through her like a knife. She tried to shout back, grabbing for the sound as if she could somehow hold it.

But she was pulled away.

She had no form, and yet she was bound--yanked from the screams like a leashed dog. She could see faces. Thousands of faces. Faces twisted in agony and terror. One of them was minn’da’s.

Vel reached for them, screaming and fighting, desperately trying to find the one face she desired. If she could find her. If she could find her they would leave together. They could get out. They had to get out together.

She couldn’t leave without--

The faces were gone.

She was gone.

The wailing, anguished faces replaced by a tangle of red threads, twisting and pulling at her shapeless form--a woven tapestry of tangled chains.

“Velameestra, what was the entity that just attempted to claim your soul?”

She was free from the all-encompassing dark.

Her mother wasn’t.

“A hex. One placed on the ring by Zalzane.”

The answer flowed before she could fully comprehend where she was. The voice sounded familiar. It was deep. Forceful.

Unrelenting.

“Is that why you chose to undergo this ritual? Or was there another reason?”

She was in the cage.

She knew the voice. Rommath. The grand magister.

The one to who she had entrusted her soul.

“There was another reason.”

And now, at her most exposed and vulnerable, he had leaped at the chance to interrogate her.

“What was that reason?”

Vel tried to resist the compulsion to answer, but the threads choked her. They wouldn’t stop winding tighter and tighter. She didn’t breathe, yet it felt like the red cords were strangling her soul, forcing the answer from her being.

Forcing her sin to be laid bare.

To the benefit of the man she had trusted.

“Because I wish to help our people. Because our people wouldn’t be in this situation if it weren’t for my incompetence.”

She wanted to shout at him. Scream at him to get out of her head. Shriek that he had no right.

But she couldn’t.

“...Do you blame yourself for the fall of Silvermoon, Velameestra Windrunner?”

She was laid bare at his mercy, entwined by the magics of the spell that had been her salvation, only for it to be used to violate her mind.

To dredge her deepest guilt to the forefront.

To force her admission to her biggest failure.

“Yes.”

She heard him speak again, but she didn’t fully process what was said. She wanted to scream. She couldn’t decide if the feelings of betrayal were rational or not, her shapeless form struggling against the threads that bound it.

They wouldn’t tear.

They wouldn’t break.

She was at their mercy. At the grand magister’s mercy.

She could still hear her mother’s screams.
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#4
Part Four


Ä̸̡͉̞̲̫̩̪͖́̈́̀̔̕̕ ̵̗̲̱͙̝̞͆̒́̐̆̌́g̷̢͖̱̝̗͊̈́̐̏̄̀͐̏͜͜͠ ̸̨̡̗̘̹̮͈̰͊́ơ̵̰̟͙̯͆̉́̈́̋̊͆ ̴̯́͒́̑͂̿̈̓͝͝͝n̶̛̛̝̑̈́̍͗̄͘ ̷͙̅̂͋̂̅ỷ̴̟͕̗̪͉̯̬̊̓̈́͒̉̍.̷͍̪̮̼̘͇͈͓͇͚̑̿̈̈́͊̓ͅ

Everything… was ȁ̴̦̭g̶̘̞͐o̸̞͙͈̖͇͖̕͠n̸͙̑̽̊̾̚͠y̴̖̐̂.

The elf didn’t know when she had returned to her body. She wasn’t even certain she had ever left the torment that was raking every bleeding, blistering nerve with countless serrated knives.

She wanted desperately to scream--to somehow overpower the anguish by leaving her throat flayed and raw by the exertion of her own wailing.

But she was no more than a corpse lost in the throes of tortuous metamorphosis, and a soul anchored to every sensation but powerless to fight them.

The echo of the downpour that had opened upon the living world might have provided a welcome distraction were it not for the wet perversion of her insides twisting and shifting beneath the careless hands of a mad, unseen surgeon. Blood sloshed in her ears, the deafening sound of cracking filling her skull as bone shifted and warped to accommodate lengthening fangs.

Fangs befitting the p̴̨̻̼̆r̷͍̐͗è̷̝̹̿d̶̩̜͖͝ą̴̦́͘t̶̤͇̑̀o̶̢̅̽r̸̡̟̘͂ she had chosen to become.

Her body lurched beneath the weight of the soft earth of her tomb, the pale flesh of her abdomen softly undulating from the movement of her changing organs. She could feel her ribs straining, the slick squelch of viscera and entrails adapting to the new roles they would take on in unlife.

Roles suited to c̶̜̮̺̍̀ȏ̷̖͐̑n̶͍̯̑͜s̵͈͎͂̔̚ù̷̟̹̎ḿ̷̡̤̦̀e̵̳͚̅ and to s̶̘̣̀͋ṳ̶̭̫̈́͆r̸̯̺̭̀̔̍v̴͎̤͗̽͠i̷͚͂͌̚ṿ̷̀ē̶͉̆̕.

She convulsed again, the movements not indicative of her consciousness, but the violence of the mutation. With a renewed fury, the nerves across her carcass and the core of her soul ignited.

Nothing she had ever done could compare. No amount of pain inflicted, nor torture endured, could compare to the sensation of being dissected, burned, disembowled, and rebuilt under a veil of semi-coherent consciousness.

Nor the gnawing, endless, s̴̺̀̊ù̸̳̆f̶̯̳͐͐f̵͈̩̲̅̒͝o̵͖̾̈́͘č̵͇͔͓͠a̶̡͔̮͌̇t̵͊͜i̴͚̺̼͛n̴̛̦͚͓g̶̛̮͌ hunger that had started to claw at her psyche.

Nor the primal, rabid, ẽ̷̘̖͈̎ẋ̷̝̹̲̆h̸̬̠̆̿̉ĭ̷̧l̷͈̃̓̚͜ă̴̠̪r̴̢̺͌͝a̴̢̜̋t̷̪͒ǐ̶͙͖̑̏ǫ̴̛̞̹̐̒n̵̢̈́͗ of her blood starting to flow.

Thump. Thump.

Velameestra’s heart started to beat. Slowly. The sound of her own blood filled her ears as her consciousness struggled to fully regain control of her body.

Thump thump.

She felt her fingers twitch beneath the cold earth of their prison. It was her first intended motion--a test of the tools that she had been gifted.

Thumpthumpthump.

Her eyes slid open, her vision blanketed by soft, cold earth.

Everything hurt. Everything screamed. Everything craved.

But none of that mattered.

THUMPTHUMPTHUMP.

Alleria.

The vampyr hissed and her limbs wrenched into motion, her hands tearing at the earth that kept her entombed. Every movement ached, but for the first time, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was escape.

All that mattered was Alleria.

Vel raked at the earth, forcing it to make room for her passage as she clawed and pulled with strength that had sprung from a supernatural well. She tore until there was nothing else to tear, dirt embedding itself beneath her nails and pressing against her face until she felt the surface break.

Her fingertips sank into the surface of the earth, finding purchase on harder soil as she hauled herself to freedom. Dirt trickled from the thick, messy tresses of her hair, the locks a veil in her red-hued vision.

She knew this place.

She knew the scent of blood--her own blood--still splattered upon the ground.

She knew the sound of rain cascading over the needles of the twisting tree.

And she knew Alleria.

Her eyes found her sire immediately, the soft blue light behind them tainted with an aura of bloody magenta. She moved toward her, words forming and failing on her tongue as the inhuman strength that had compelled her began to wane.

Alleria’s arms found her before she hit the ground.

“It’s alright.”

Her aunt’s voice became the only sound she heard.

“It’s alright, Vel. I’m here.”

Comforting. Reassuring. Safe.

She was barely aware of the ranger-captain’s bare neck until her attention was drawn to it by Alleria’s gentle urging.

“It’s alright… please.”

F̷̢̰͊̏͋é̴̦̑͌e̴̛͔d̶̦̃̄͘.

Velameestra’s eyes honed onto Alleria’s exposed throat. It was pristine and pale in the dark, enshrouded in the shadow of her lowered hood.

Compelled by the underlying command, she felt her lips part, her fangs lengthening as the insatiable hunger deep in her core bid her heart to race. She could hear her sire’s heartbeat, and the blood it pumped.

Her fangs impaled flesh, slaking her tongue with the thick, metallic ambrosia of blood as each beat of Alleria’s heart pushed more into her eagerly waiting maw. And with each beat, the feral focus ebbed and exhaustion flowed, the primal compulsion of hunger easing as her clarity--and autonomy--returned.

The mage recoiled, blood--Alleria’s blood--dripping down the side of her face. Once more, she felt her aunt catch her before her legs could fail.

“It’s alright, Vel,” Alleria repeated, the gentle reassurance an anchor as the new vampyr struggled.

I died.

The thought loomed on Vel’s mind as she fully realized the presence of two others: the grand magister and the--her--king looming in the lit entrance of the cavern.

I died.

“...I’m… back,” Vel offered hesitantly, the statement just as much a tentative question, before she let herself fall deeper into her aunt’s embrace. She felt the other elf’s arms close tighter around her, the scent of fresh blood morbidly calming in the wake of everything that had just transgressed.

Vel felt her hands find purchase in the folds of her aunt’s cloak.

“We should get you back to Vengeance Landing,” Alleria said, breaking the silence. “You will… want to rest, after this.”

Slowly, the mage nodded into her hair and allowed her grip to relax. However, once more, the strength in her legs faltered. For the third time, she found support against her aunt.

“I got you. Don’t worry.”
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#5
Part Five


Velameestra’s vision swam as she struggled to exist in a state somewhere between alertness and unconsciousness, supported by the sturdy anchor of her aunt. The adrenaline that had fueled her return to the land of the living had fled just as readily as it had arrived, leaving her limbs sluggish and her perception faltering.

She hated the feeling, but even the irateness faltered as readily as it appeared--dying somewhere in the edges of her mind in the ongoing war to process the events unfolding around her.

There’s blood on my face.

The mental realization came well after she had subconsciously become aware of the messy streaks down her chin--streaks that had started to drip into the snow-white locks of her hair as it mixed with the rain--and she, more out of habit rather than true conscious effort, raised a hand to clear it away with a spark of magic.

“It’s good to have you back, Velameestra,” Kael’thas said as the pair finished their approach. She could see the smile on his lips, but all she could truly do was nod in acknowledgement as her mind wrestled with getting words to her tongue.

I died.

The thought repeated for the third time, and it suddenly dawned on her how empty her mind was. Abnormally empty, as it was missing a consciousness that had always been within her reach for nearly the past year.

...Kel? she thought, trying to prod for the archmage’s familiar presence before her mind managed to rationalize why he wasn’t there to respond.

I died.

Attunements broke with death.

Attunements… broke…

But not that….

What might have rapidly become a spiral of exhausted panic was promptly broken by the unstoppered vial that Alleria offered. Vel stared at it, redirecting her mind to recall what the vessel contained, and then promptly took it to allow the thick, metallic liquid to flow down her throat without further hesitation.

She felt the gnawing hunger in her core recede, sated by her own still-living blood.

“I suppose we can head back to the Landing now,” Kael’thas spoke again.

“It wouldn’t be wise for her to ride alone in this state,” Alleria replied. She looked down to her niece, an arm still securely held around the younger elf’s waist. “Would you be alright riding with me?”

“I had another idea, actually,” the king responded faster than Vel could even begin to force words between her fangs, and her thoughts were shattered by the shrill cry of a whistle--leaving her struggling to regather the pieces.

At first she thought the sound overhead was thunder. It seemed like a dull roar, but one accompanied by a shadow deeper than the rain-soaked, overcast day. It was a massive creature that landed, one that should have been instantaneously recognized, and yet somehow, seeing him up close was more than her exhausted mind could comprehend.

Old, glowing chains hung heavily around the creature’s skeletal neck, and the hollows of his eyes burned with an inner fire that almost threatened to char his bare skull to ash. Ribs were visible between burning feathers, and the faint sound of sizzling filled the air as rain cascaded upon the creature and promptly evaporated.

Al’ar.

The name came to the fledgling vampyr’s mind. One that should have clicked immediately given the times she had observed him soaring far above Vengeance Landing in the new, revenant state he had adopted since his master’s transition. A state that was simultaneously more awe-inspiring and macabrely beautiful than his last.

“We’ll get back quicker this way,” Kael’thas said, regarding the ashen phoenix with a look of pride. “So you can begin to recover your strength sooner.”

Vel felt Alleria’s grip tense around her shoulders even as she nodded, dumb-founded, and she stopped, reluctant to leave her aunt’s side given the strength of the ranger-captain’s hold. But then Alleria’s grip released, slowly receding from her supportive position to ensure that her niece could stand on her own two feet.

“Of course, my king,” the ranger said. “That’s a smart idea. I’ll meet you back there.”

Wordless permission granted, Vel took a cautious step forward. She felt her limbs shake, the rain that had coalesced into a thin sheen of frost across the bare flesh of her arms cracking and completing its descent to the earth.

Kael’thas took her hand, the exchange of custody complete as the elder vampyr’s magic lifted them both into place on the shoulders of the ashen, smoldering phoenix.

Even as the flames licked at her skin, they didn’t burn, the elemental creature’s essence providing a comforting, harmless warmth against the chill of the northern rain. For a moment, Vel stared blankly at Kael’thas’s back, but then leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his chest--seeing no other option for a handhold to keep her in place.

Were she more coherent she might have been more aware of the contrast of her dirt-scuffed nails and bedraggled, blood-marred clothes against the Crimson King’s pristine robes. In truth, had the exertion of even minor magical tricks not been so notable, every inch of her body would have been scoured the moment she had risen from her grave.

But it mattered so little in the scope of exhaustion and the aching pain that was still heavy on her limbs.

Vel looked back to Alleria, their eyes meeting between the powerful beats of Al’ar’s massive wings as the creature started to ascend, and already she felt a poignant isolation. She barely saw Rommath--silent as he was--until his movement to claim the reigns of the two now-unattended hawkstriders drew her focus.

He…

The thought struggled to form, the grand magister’s half-cowled face triggering memories of the harrowing events before her entombment.

He had saved her life. She knew it.

But so too had he promptly abused her weakened, vulnerable state and laid her soul bare.

Her brow furrowed, a conflux of mixed emotions rumbling in the back of her mind, though they were swiftly lost to the dull numbness of exhaustion.

“That was a brave thing you did, Velameestra. I’m impressed.”

Kael’thas’s voice interrupted her thoughts, cutting through the idle acknowledgement of the hazy forest and blurred waves far below. Where her senses with her, she would have been in awe--searching the unclaimed land for any number of secrets hidden from earth-bound eyes.

But instead, she found her head resting against the middle of her king’s back, eyes seeing but not fully processing.

“...Thank you,” she responded, unsure if the words she had managed to utter were loud enough to be heard above the sound of Al’ar’s beating wings.

“How do you feel?” Kael’thas asked.

Mentally, Vel didn’t know if she found the question morbidly funny or exhausting. It was so deceptively simple. Idle small talk, and yet it carried with it a weight that she had only truly started to recognize.

How did she feel?

Vulnerable. Helpless. Exhausted. In pain.

“Tired,” she replied, the statement perhaps more dry than she would have otherwise intended it to be. Her mouth felt strange, her tongue unable to find a place between the fangs that now filled space that had once been free.

She felt Kael’thas shift beneath her grip--perhaps the inhale of a chuff.

“Yes. I suppose that would make sense,” he replied. “Don’t worry. We’ll make sure you are up to your full strength soon. It’s the least we could do for one of our people.”

Vel nodded into his back in acknowledgement. Compared the icy chill of her own flesh, his presence and the heat of Al’ar was almost soothing to her aching muscles--the warmth loosening limbs that had had been jerked so suddenly from a state of rigor mortis.

“It’s appreciated,” she added, clarification to the nod that was perhaps unneeded.

She didn’t see the clouds that had opened before them, her face half-buried in the other elf’s cloak and the tresses of her own hair. However, she did feel the abrupt shift in Al’ar’s flight.

She grunted, half in surprise, half in pain as she instinctively tensed, her fingers and nails digging into the folds of Kael’thas’s robes with a spike of survival-fueled adrenaline--her body pulled as close to his back as she could possibly manage in a desperate attempt to keep herself from falling.

Her eyes were filled with the light of day, and she shut them instinctively, mentally preparing herself for the flesh-sloughing burn of the light that was now her enemy.

It never came.

“Are you alright, Vel?” the tone of idle conversation had evaporated from Kael’thas’s voice. Instead, it was laced with concern fueled by a similar expectation.

She was staring at the bare flesh of her arm.

I… didn’t burn.

The response only existed in her mind at first, the tingling on her skin evidence of the kiss of sunlight, but no angry mark or peeling flesh had been left in its wake. Perhaps she was silent for a second too long. She felt Kael’thas shift beneath her death-grip.

She hadn’t responded.

“It… didn’t burn,” she repeated, this time out loud. Confusion was heavy in her voice, and there was an equally lengthy pause from her companion.

“...Is that so?” he asked, curiosity creeping into his voice and slowly edging out the worry. “Well. Would you look at that.”

She felt him shift again, this time to look back at her, and she slowly relaxed the fingers that had knitted themselves tightly into the front of his robes. She saw him hold up his own hand, the sleeve of his tunic pulled back to expose his own flesh to the light of the sun.

“Neither did I,” he said, curiosity rapidly becoming amusement. “That I knew. But… I’m impressed. Seems you’ve already begun to adapt. A rare gift.”

Vel looked at Kael’thas’s raised hand, and then back to her own arm, the realization settling into the recesses of her mind.

...adapt?

The sun was far too bright.

But it didn’t burn.

“After all,” the king continued, the edge of amusement still in his voice. “I suppose it wouldn’t do for a king that bears the name Sunstrider to burn up in his namesake, would it?”

It was meant to be a joke. In hindsight, she would realize it. Perhaps she might have even been amused by the morbid irony.

If her mind wasn’t too exhausted to keep up.

“No. It wouldn’t,” she replied, shifting her head to once more bury her face in the other elf’s back and shielding her eyes from the forsaken sun.
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