Categories > Games > Warcraft0 Reviews
An exhausted and strung-out Kael simply wanted to sleep, but the alien skies of Hellfire Peninsula simply wouldn't let him. Fortunately, Illidan doesn't sleep much, either.
So it was, after what seemed like weeks of fighting all manner of horrors, living and quite otherwise, in two different worlds, that Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider finally found himself in something resembling a bed. Elder Akama's draenei village was crude of course, by any reckoning--but the Prince welcomed the chance for even some measure of rest, and gladly accepted the poor, misbegotten creatures' meager hospitality.
More than anything, Kael was bone weary, a fatigue that went far beyond mere physical exhaustion. His very heart ached, longing for something he could not put into words. He felt it with every fiber of his being, sunk deep into his bones, his soul. It was equal parts arcane withdrawal and grief for his father, his land and his people. The pain was growing unbearable. When he was fighting, struggling against a foe, his mind was at ease. When he had a tangible goal, something to focus on beside this perpetual sense of loss, he was fine. Pushed to his limits, driven by bald necessity and the survival of his people, Kael could bear his suffering. However, now that he finally had time to breathe, he found the crushing weight of it all collapsing upon his shoulders.
He tossed and turned on the stiff pallet, utterly unable to sleep. Throwing his cloak off, he stumbled to his feet, and stepped outside the meager hut. Perhaps a walk would settle his nerves.
The village was silent and still; only a few soldiers patrolled the perimeter, keeping watch for any sign of Magtheridon's forces. A motley crew they were: a few of his own blood elves, a slithering naga sorceress or two, a broken draenei hunter lurking in the shadows. Their presence was barely palpable, however.
"You are...unwell, Kael?"
Kael momentarily jumped, startled by the deep, now familiar voice. Illidan half sat, half lay by the smoldering embers that remained of the village's communal fire, propped up by an elbow. Kael had no idea how he managed to do that, how he always seemed to sense when someone was near. Certainly, it was not unheard of for the other senses of the blind to compensate when sight was lost, but Illidan was simply uncanny. It was yet another mark of his immense power, Kael thought.
"You are not taking any rest, then, Master?" he asked, with a frown. Indeed, though they had been pushing hard through the Peninsula, Kael had never seen Illidan rest.
"I had rest enough for ten thousand years, my young friend." The faintest hint of an enigmatic smile slipped across Illidan's lips, and Kael barely suppressed a nervous chuckle. In his heart of hearts, the Prince had to admit a certain amount of trepidation toward the infamous Stormrage. Vashj's breathless tales of his skill and cunning in days of old did nothing to assuage that, certainly. In many ways, Illidan was a living, breathing legend. Kael had never felt so small in his life as he did in his new lord's presence. And Kael'thas Sunstrider never felt insignificant, not even when that thrice-damned racist human had he and his men virtually cleaning chamber pots. There was always a certain amount of pride he felt, and it always seemed to crumble when he was near Illidan.
"You did not answer my question, Prince," Illidan quietly pointed out. "You seem ill at ease. What troubles you?"
"Nothing to concern you with, my Lord," Kael answered, perhaps a bit too quickly. To his surprise, Illidan extended a clawed hand in his direction, beckoning him.
"If you cannot sleep, then join me, and I shall be the judge of that," Illidan said, his smile twisting into a smirk. Kael swallowed and obediently joined him at the fire pit, sitting across from him. He tried hard not to stare at him through the spluttering flames, but could not help himself. His eyes traced the spiraling patterns inked upon Illidan's chiseled form. They were beautiful, and crackled with arcane power; he could sense it even from across the fire.
"A gift of the Dark Titan, as it were," Illidan said softly, lightly brushing one of his markings, as if he read Kael's thoughts.
"I apologize, Master, it was not my intention to gape--"
"It's quite alright, lad. Unlike most others, I happen to believe curiosity is a virtue," Illidan chuckled, and Kael felt as if his Master were making a joke for his own amusement, one that was sailing right over his golden head. "No matter. The tattoos and these..." Illidan gestured toward his blindfold, which did little to hide the emerald brilliance peeking through it where his eyes once were. "...were granted to me by Sargeras himself."
"...fascinating," Kael said, with complete sincerity, but more than a little fear at that dread name.
"I doubt you came out here for a history lesson on my varied deformities, however," Illidan started pointedly. "Again, I ask you, why do you not sleep, young prince?"
"My mind is...troubled, sir," Kael replied with a sigh. "And I find myself ill at ease in this place, despite the promise it holds for my people."
Illidan nodded, an oddly sympathetic frown crossing his visage. "It is understandable. I'd imagine this place must seem foreign to you, frightening."
"I was born in a land of eternal springtime, and came of age amongst gardens of violet and gold. It is a difficult thing to walk amongst such desolation," Kael confessed. "And yet, it is no worse than what I left behind. Those places only exist in my memories, now."
"Do not despair, Kael. With the power I can give you, your land will prosper as it once did. Your people will know springtime again," Illidan promised, and Kael smiled. He had never expected to see such warmth, such compassion from him. He expected power, certainly, a way to slake the deepening thirst of his suffering people--but nothing more. Illidan was an absolute enigma to Kael, and one that was endlessly fascinating. Just when he thought he had him figured out, he would do something completely unexpected and astonish him.
"Master, may I be so bold as to ask you something?" Kael asked, suddenly feeling the courage to put forth the question that had been plaguing him ever since he pledged fealty to the infamous one they called Betrayer.
"Why are you aiding us? I serve you gladly--my people serve you without question--but why have you agreed to help us?"
Illidan sat brooding for a long moment, and Kael worried that he overstepped his bounds. Finally, Illidan sat up, and faced the embers, almost as if he were staring into them. "Because I know what it's like," he finally answered, his voice scarcely above a whisper. "I know what it's like to feel a terrible hunger growing inside you until it drives you to near madness. I know what it's like to lose everything you ever held dear, and have nothing left but that hunger. And I know what it's like to be betrayed by those you trusted most, in your darkest hour, only to be named 'Betrayer' and cast aside like so much refuse. I know, Kael'thas Sunstrider. I know because I have lived it for centuries upon centuries, and I lived it before you were even a glimmer in your forebears' eyes. No, my young prince, I would not have you suffer as I have, nor anyone. Not so long as I draw breath."
Illidan fell silent, his great wings reflexively folding in on themselves, and Kael could say nothing. He could find no words to express what he felt. Always, Illidan had appeared the very pillar of strength and cunning, a magnificent warrior and sorcerer of untold ability. It was then, however, at that very moment, that Kael'thas saw the scarred spirit behind that majestic and powerful form. His words belied millennia of bitterness and pain, feelings that surely must have only festered over such a long time spent in solitude with only one's thoughts for companionship. Yet, despite that, they were also words of compassion, of profound empathy. He had not been completely broken by his confinement; merely made stronger, more certain in his convictions. Kael suddenly found himself swelling with admiration for Illidan. And yet, he also felt a strange pride--that his master would share such closely held, private feelings with him, that he would drop his guard even for a moment to show such a side of himself. He was deeply moved by the gesture.
"...you honor me with your words, Lord Illidan," Kael said simply, not knowing how else to express his gratitude. "And I will walk the ends of two worlds and more for you."
Another slight smile crossed Illidan's lips, and Kael was suddenly struck by how darkly handsome he was. When first he laid eyes upon him, among the broken ruins of his beloved Dalaran, all the Elf could see was the treacherous monster Maiev spoke of with such contempt. But here, alone in silence and away from the urgency and conflict which marked that first meeting, and the fear and trepidation which marked their formal meeting in Outland, Kael was seeing him for the first time with unclouded eyes.
"I--if you'll excuse me, Master, I should probably try to sleep," Kael said lamely, suddenly flush with embarrassment. He felt like a silly schoolgirl, and it was more than a little undignified. A graceful exit would be best. Illidan, however, would have none of it.
"Something wrong, Kael?" He raised an eyebrow, and sounded faintly amused.
"Nothing, Master," Kael lied, and he could feel the crimson rush creeping into his fair skin. He bowed awkwardly, and scurried back toward his hut with the remainder of his dignity. Exhaustion and magic withdrawal were clearly taking their toll on him. Sleep was what he needed. He laid down, curling under his cloak once more.
What Prince Kael did not count on were the dreams of Lord Illidan that were soon to follow.