By J. Green
"Jaina, you're not paying close enough attention. Would you like to lose control and blow Dalaran to tiny bits?" Antonidas admonished her.
Jaina sighed softly, but only responded with "No, sir." She had been paying close attention, but her master was still displeased with her tardiness from the day before. The fact that she had arrived early this morning had no impact on his mood. This was just one of the many prices of working with the most skilled mage of the time, especially as a woman.
It's not that women were not allowed to practice magic within the Kirin Tor, it was more that they weren't exactly encouraged to do so. While Jaina's natural talent excluded her from most of those prejudices, it certainly didn't give her a free pass. She hoped that one day, with her help, women would be seen as equals among the order of the Kirin Tor.
She cleared her mind and refocused her energy in front of her. Suddenly, a pillar of fire ignited the ground she was focusing on, causing a small circular area to burn for a few seconds. Satisfied, she relaxed her shoulders and glanced over at Antonidas. He harrumphed, but didn't scold her any further. Indicating she should attempt another spell, he folded his arms across his broad chest. This time, Jaina concentrated on the target dummy set against the wall. She began gathering her strength before lifting her hand toward it, launching several bolts of arcane energy at a time. A movement to her left caused her to start, stopping her barrage.
"Fool! How do you plan on taking down your enemies if you cannot focus on your casting? Do you just expect them to attack you one at a time? Perhaps they'll stand in a line, drinking tea with each other, waiting for you to hurl your measly bolts at them..." Antonidas's verbal assault continued while Jaina glared at her interruption. Prince Sunstrider, for all that it was his fault she was being reproached, managed to look down at his hands as if inspecting his nails, completely unperturbed.
"If you are quite done, Grand Magus, I come baring news," Prince Sunstrider interrupted the mage. Antonidas harrumphed again, this time in annoyance with elf, but he paid him no mind. "Prince Arthas Menethil of Lordaeron has arrived and is seeking your counsel."
"Fine, fine. I'll be on my way. Jaina, your portals have been dodgy. Have Kael show you a thing or two. After I'm done, I'm sure you'll wish to speak with Arthas." Jaina nodded, eager to see Arthas and to hear news of her family. When Antonidas had blinked from the room, she turned to the prince, regarding him with a wary eye. How was he to teach her anything if he couldn't even speak to her?
She need not have worried, as the elvin mage was all business. Over and over, she created portal after portal, and still he wasn't satisfied. She was too fast, she was too slow; the portal was too small, the portal was too large; the portal didn't display the exact coordinates he had given her. Sweat had begun to slide down her neck when she finally threw her hands up in the air, frustrated with his latest demand: her hands were in the wrong position for casting portals.
"I give up!" she exclaimed. "Make your own damn portals!" Prince Sunstrider's eyes registered his shock at her outburst.
"I can," he stately simply, with a shrug of his shoulders. She couldn't help herself; she began to laugh.
"Yes," she responded, "I supposed you can."
"Really, your portals are not half as bad as I had thought. Certainly not 'dodgy' by any sense of the word."
"I'm afraid the Grand Magus is a little agitated with me as of late. I had the audacity to arrive five minutes late to our training session yesterday."
Empathy sparkled in the prince's eyes. "Ah, yes, I believe he once gave me the cold shoulder for two months because I missed a sparring appointment with him – I had been laid up in the hospital for a week with the flu!"
They shared a chuckle over Antonidas's quirkiness about time before the elf turned to Jaina and said, "I'm sorry if I offended you, before. I was just pushing the limits of your abilities. Every mage can cast a simple city portal; only people deserving the title of the archmagus can create a portal to any coordinates given."
Jaina sighed, "Well, if that's the case, then my hands must really be in the wrong casting position. That was the only correction you had that wasn't a test of abilities."
He smiled as he began casting a portal to Quel'Thalas, indicating that she should ape his movements. She moved her hands in a similar manner, unknowingly screwing her face up and sticking her tongue out in concentration. When he glanced at her to check her progress, he snorted and lost focus on his portal.
"I certainly hope my face doesn't look like that when I'm casting a portal." She looked at him in utter confusion before coloring with the realization. He stepped up behind her and grabbed her hands. "Please, don't subject me to that face again. Just concentrate on opening a portal to the library."
She pictured the library in her mind, drew on her strength, and began to focus her energy in front of her. The prince's hands, smooth and cool, moved hers to the position he had held before. Although he was almost two heads taller than her, she felt his warm, steady breath on the back of her neck. She doubled her focus as an unexpected wave of desire flared in her chest. A drop of sweat snaked its way down her exposed cleavage and she felt his breath quicken and his hands tighten. She lost all concentration as he suddenly broke away from her.
"Good...that was...good." And without another word, Kael'Thas Sunstrider, Prince of Quel'Thalas, the high elf who feared nothing, turned and fled the room.
Antonidas sighed. Perhaps pledging Kirin Tor's allegiance to the Alliance of Lordaeon had been shortsighted on his part. While it had led to victory in the Second War, lately, it had only led to endless interruptions of his studies and grooming of his apprentice's skills. He smiled when his thoughts turned to young Jaina Proudmoore. She was as skilled as she was beautiful; if he had had a daughter, he hoped she would have been like Jaina. He didn't even feel the slightest bit guilty for coming down hard on her tardiness; it almost assuredly guaranteed promptness for the rest of her life. And throwing her together with Kael as a "teacher"? That was just good planning on his part. The elf would far outlive him, and if Antonidas desired to turn the mantle of leadership over to Jaina when he passed, Kael needed to get over his infatuation with her. He couldn't have two of his best mages unable to speak to each other!
"...and that is why we need your assistance, Grand Magus." Antonidas looked up from his reverie, having heard very little the human prince said.
Clearing his throat, he stated regally, "Of course, I see your point, Prince Menethil. I will allow you to present your case before the Council."
Arthas tried not to look exasperated at Antonidas's apparent lack of interest. Dalaran was Lordearon's strongest ally, and truly the only entity capable of assisting the current plight of the Alliance. He would just have to hope that the Council was more willing to listen.
"Ah, Jaina, don't hover by the door. Come in, come in. Prince Menethil and I were just finishing." Arthas turned and was immediately struck breathless. He hadn't seen her since she left for Dalaran three years ago. At the time, she had been awkward and gawky; she had followed him around Lordearon like a little lost puppy whenever her father came to visit. But now? Now she stood erect with confidence and power. Her formerly plain blonde hair now flowed with such luster that the moonlight seemed to dance on it. Her skin looked like a pearl and he wanted nothing more than to touch it. Her startlingly blue eyes, which he had never noticed before, were ringed by long, inky black eyelashes and seemed to shine with intelligence. And her body...his desire struck him hard. She had a body men lusted after, curved in all the right places; so curvy, in fact, that her modest apprentice robes struggled to cover her ample cleavage.
Jaina felt his stare, but instead of returning it tenfold as she wished, she kept her eyes trained on Antonidas, only stealing glances Arthas's way sporadically. Her master outlined her course of work for the next day, oblivious to the thoughts of his apprentice. Arthas looked...good. Very good. He was taller than she remembered, and his paladin training had obviously done great things for him. The muscles in his arms and chest strained against his tunic and the air of confidence surrounding him was intoxicating. Yes, this was a man who could get things done. His hair was the only detail that made her pause. It was more yellow than she remembered. More of a saffron than the pale cream color of her dreams. Was that how it always was? Kael'Thas has cream colored hair. She immediately snapped her attention back to Antonidas with that thought. Of course that was it. The only blondes other than herself that she had exposure to these last three years were Prince Sunstrider and Vereesa Whisperwind, a high elf ranger often coming to Dalaran on assignments from her superiors.
Finally, Antonidas finished speaking and Jaina was free to face Arthas. "Prince Menethil, how pleasant it is to see you again."
"Lady Proudmoore, the pleasure is all mine," Arthas responded. He took her hand in his and raised it to his lips. "I bring news from Lord Admiral Daelin and Kul Tiras. But it's late. Perhaps you'd rather rest and we can catch up tomorrow."
"Oh, please, no. I'm eager for news of home! Tandred has been slow in writing these last few months. I'm afraid father has been pushing him a little hard."
Tucking her hand in his arm, he stated, "Well, please lead the way to your rooms and I will tell you all I know."