Barren ground burned under a warped sky. Geysers of fire erupted here and there across the cracked, reddish earth, shooting up towards the glittering stars and the surging colors above. Bands of what had once been the ley-fabric of the world pulsed through the atmosphere, vivid and golden. To the far south, the crumbling edges of the realm gave way to ever-shifting folds and tears in reality, and monsters formed from the purest essence of the void wandered the wastes. In the high mountains of the north, Doom Lord Kazzak commanded supreme over the demonic forces of the Burning Legion, who roamed or marched across the entirety of the shattered world. At the center of the nether-swept region, Hellfire Citadel jutted into the sky, from which the orcs of Illidan's fel horde grew their ranks and struck at the Betrayer's enemies. Just to the east of this, the Horde and the Alliance faced off across the Path of Glory, their strongholds of Thrallmar and Honor Hold standing as bastions of mortal defiance. To the far east stood the Dark Portal, towering over all else for as far as the eye could see, its gate a howling swirl of color, magic, lights, and infinite darkness.
And in the northeastern vicinity, at the edge of the world, Tezzakel had seized an opportunity to dispose of a particular nuisance to the Burning Legion.
The elf's luminescent green eyes were wide as the dreadlord dangled her by the neck over the depthless dark beyond the edge of the shattered planet. His sharp, demonic features were all ascowl, glowering at the fair face of the mortal arcanist before him. His clawed hand bore no pressure on her slender throat, merely held her aloft, the edge-sides of his fingers holding her up only by virtue of being underneath the ridge of her jaw. The elf clutched desperately at his hand with both of her own smaller ones, but not in an effort to make him loose his grip. She was holding on for dear life.
"Quite the troublemaker, for a mere mortal," growled Tezzakel in a low voice, full of contempt. "Pity that you tend to make trouble for the wrong side." His menacing eyes narrowed at his captive. "Oh, don't think that your interference in the affairs of the Legion has gone unnoticed, arcanist." He sneered as he spoke her title, as if the contrivance of mortal formalities was distasteful to him. "The Betrayer's gifts to your people have made... quite the predators out of some of you," he said. The demon lifted his other hand to trail one of his claws down the side of her face, so sharp that it drew blood, even though his touch was feather-light. "Like yourself." He tilted his great, horned head a little to one side as he stared the helpless mage down. "Pity, potential such as yours might have been a worthy addition to our ranks..." he said, and then shrugged his broad, armored shoulders. "But, alas, if you won't stand with your prince, who stands with my master-" the corner of his mouth pulled up and his voice changed to something more akin to a purr "-then it simply won't do to allow you to keep running amok."
Aranya only barely paid attention to anything that the demon was saying. Her eyes kept shifting anxiously from his hand around her neck to his face and back. Her heart was beating so hard and so fast that she felt it would thunder right out of her chest. Make a mistake, she kept thinking desperately. One mistake, just one, that's all I need.
The sorceress had been out on the hunt when she had been waylaid by the dreadlord.
Hungry, but not for food. Food was easily conjured by anyone versed in her craft. What Aranya Ver'Sarn hungered for was something less easy to sufficiently procure, and far more precious to her race.
Arcane power that had suffused and sustained her people throughout their whole existence and without which they now suffered greatly. Prince Sunstrider had found a way in this broken world to feed that hunger, bid his people to come and settle here, and Aranya had feasted on the essence of creatures of the void with relish ever since.
But she hadn't fed in a couple of days - she hadn't had the opportunity to do so - and this morning she had woken up awfully light-headed, sullen, and feeling unwell, so she took leave of her orcish friend, Dorogan, to go and sate herself. The imps and felhounds north and east of Thrallmar were easy pickings, and they took the edge off of her hunger. But it hadn't been enough, and her keen elf senses had not been so sharp to the fact that she was being stalked by the nathrezim and his two sayaad companions.
They stood on either side of him now, simpering and sadistic maidens of the Nether. Armed with lashes, clad in what could barely be called armor, watching with blue eyes that glowed with spite and a thirst to drink in the suffering of others, smiles on their soft-looking mouths. One of them had taken Aranya's sword, and every so often she would appraise it with a gloating smirk. Both of them were enjoying how Tezzakel antagonized the pretty little thing in his grasp, like a cat toying with some smaller creature before finally killing it. The dreadlord glanced right and left over his enormous shoulders at the pair of them, a smile of his own spreading over his mouth full of sharp teeth. Suddenly, he whirled around, hurling the elf to the ground in front of the two succubi, and she let out a startled yelp just before she hit the hard, dead earth, tumbling over and over until she rolled to a stop at the demonesses' hooved feet.
At first, Aranya did nothing but lie there, dazed and winded. Her sleek black hair had fallen over her eyes, and her arms and legs lay sprawled haphazardly. She ached in several places where her body had impacted with the ground - her ribs, her knees, her shoulders - her neck felt a particularly bad discomfort after having been in Tezzakel's grip. Her hands at least were spared a bad scraping, thanks to the fingerless handwraps that she wore. Regaining her breath was proving to be a struggle. She heard the succubi closing in on her, chuckling in their poisonously sweet voices, eager to toy with her themselves as she was given a slow and horrible demise.
Breathe, her mind screamed at her. Get up!
Her fingers dug into the dry ground, gathering up a fistful of dirt. As one of the sayaad sisters turned Aranya over from where she lay on her stomach, the elf forced a deep, gasping breath of air into her lungs, snapping her arm up and out at the succubus and flinging the dirt into the fel creature's eyes. The succubus shrieked, enraged, and recoiled. The other demoness made to lunge for Aranya, but was met with the elf-mage's booted foot to her bare stomach and knocked back a few steps, momentarily stunned. Seizing the moment, Aranya disappeared, then reappeared several yards away from the demons, all in the blink of an eye. Now was her chance to run, get away, escape while she had the advantage to do so.
If escape had been her actual aim.
With a single word uttered in Thalassian, a magical snare caught at the feet of the succubus that had lunged for Aranya, ripples of bent time-space slowing the creature down, keeping her at range. The lights in Aranya's fel-green eyes flared as she channeled another spell, and pulse after pulse of arcane energy flew from the sorceress's outstretched palms, slamming into the Nether maid.
The succubus winced and cried out with each incandescent missile that rocked her, but persisted despite the mage's onslaught. With a swing of her arm and a flick of her wrist, the lash that the succubus wielded whipped forward to wrap one end around the elf's ankle with a snap. A hard yank took Aranya's feet out from under her and left her fallen onto her backside, glowing eyes wide, as she was dragged from her position over the rough, scraping ground to within proximity of the demoness, using the lash as if it were a rope.
As the succubus pulled her within arms-reach, Aranya hastily invoked another spell under her breath, and a flaming crest briefly appeared just above her head between her long, pointed ears. The demoness lunged at her, and Aranya instinctively threw up an arm as if to shield herself from the worst of the attack, crying out as sharp nails ripped at her sleeve and raked across her skin underneath. But Aranya was not the only one to yell out in pain. The armoring spell that she had cast did its work, and as the succubus swiped at her, fire sparked over the Nether maid's unnaturally rosy skin, making her scream in shock.
The succubus attempted another furious swing at Aranya, but this time the elf shot out a hand and caught the demoness by the wrist, re-directing the fel creature's momentum by pulling her arm down and to the side. As the succubus all but fell forward, Aranya lifted herself up at the waist and slammed her other hand into the creature's chest, finishing her off with magic that sent a controlled blast of fire erupting point-blank into the demoness.
The sayaad maiden's lovely face went slack-jawed, the lights in her blue eyes darkened, and her smoldering shell crumpled to the ground beside the mage, lifeless.
But by now the other one had recovered. Shrieking in rage, the remaining succubus charged at Aranya.
Having no time to think, the arcanist twisted her body as the succubus collided with her, rolling to the side to try to keep the fel temptress off of her. But the force of their inertia was too great, and they went in a scuffling tumble for a few yards, ending with Aranya flat on her back and not at all having the upper hand. The succubus had her pinned to the ground by the wrists. Using all of her energy, the elf-mage managed to raise one arm off ground, forcing her attacker to shift her weight to push back. In that moment, she immediately stretched out her other arm. As the succubus moved to re-grab the escaped arm, Aranya rolled vigorously in the direction of her raised arm and pushed up hard with her body.
Though the demoness was now effectively off of her, Aranya still had one arm painfully caught in the fel creature's grip. With her free hand, Aranya quickly reached around the succubus' shoulder and grabbed low at the nearest wing joint. With a ferociously hard pull, the wing was bent contrary to the joint. The succubus cried out in pain, but did not release the Thalassian sorceress. Another vicious yank and the wing was dislocated with an audible pop; Aranya's other arm was freed as the Nether maid let out another scream. The arcanist made a grab for her sword - hanging at the waist of the crippled succubus, secured by a loop of leather that broke easily with a snap - and drove the re-claimed weapon into the exposed midsection of her adversary.
The succubus' luminous eyes went wide with shock. Her dark red blood oozed along the elf's blade, flecks of it splashing darkly onto the spinel-colored robes of her slayer, and pooling over the dry ground. A swift pull from the mage to remove the blade left the wound wide open, and yet more of the creature's life-blood gushed from her. She began channeling a spell in the sayaad tongue, gasping, frantic to hold fast to what precious breath was left to her, hopeful that whatever life she could steal by magic from her foe would be enough to repair her. But Aranya had other ideas, and a timely counterspell silenced the dying succubus.
The Nether maid was fading fast. Aranya's tainted eyes gained a predatory focus, watching her enemy. This was what she had hoped for, risked staying for. The other one had been killed too quickly to be of any good to her, but while this one lasted she could take her fill of the demoness' inherent power. A more satisfying fare than mere imps. With one hand, Aranya gripped the succubus' slender shoulder, grasping her chin with her other hand and turning that too-rosy face towards her, forcing the fel creature to look at her. Smoldering green eyes locked with fluorescent blue ones as the blood elf tapped into the essence of the sayaad seductress, tasting her energy.
Suddenly, stars exploded behind Aranya's eyes as she was violently knocked away from the succubus.
Tezzakel was no longer content to watch.
For a moment, Aranya couldn't see or hear anything. Her ears rang and her head swam. As her senses came back into focus, she saw the dreadlord's great hoof above her. A silent gasp drew over her features and she rolled to the side of where she had fallen, Tezzakel's hoof slamming into the ground where she just was not a second too soon. Quick as a striking serpent, his opposite hand came down on her chest and ribs, pinning her. The elf gaped up at him, eyes as wide as full moons, momentarily too stunned to struggle.
"Troublesome indeed," he growled, the deep bass of his voice vibrating through his whole form such that the elf caught under his hand could feel it tremor through herself as well. "You are a waste," he snarled. "Refusing to grasp the truth lain at your feet." His blazing eyes bored into her. "The Legion is eternal. We are all that will endure. Those of your kin who understand this will know utmost power..." He lifted his other hand, fel fire erupting into life over his clawed fingers as he curled them into a fist. "But your meddlesome life ends now."
It took a moment for Tezzakel to register what had just happened. The elf was no longer before him, and in her place there were only ethereal glimmers that flashed briefly on the air.
A sudden, painful charge of arcane power blasting through him ended his momentary bewilderment. She was behind him.
A swell of power built up around the mage as her words and gestures continued their manipulation of the powers which she evoked, releasing in yet another excruciating blast upon the dreadlord. Blast after blast she cast, with as much haste as she could muster. Regardless, the demon managed to regain himself, his deep voice incanting dark, guttural words. Within seconds the ground under Aranya's feet was sorcerously rent into fissures of entropic fire. Reacting quickly, the mage cast a ward upon herself to protect against the burning terrain, but it would only last for half a minute.
Fel fire followed her steps as she ran from the enkindled area, bolt after bolt of the sizzling energies tossed by Tezzakel, bits of dirt and natural debris sent flying with the force of each one as it landed. Bursts of scorching flame were Aranya's retaliation on the dreadlord as she wove dodging steps through his assault.
Eventually, the nathrezim anticipated the next movement of his enemy. As the Thalassian sorceress rounded her path along a rock wall, he launched another ball of blisteringly tainted magic before her, slamming into the rock face and halting her advance. As stone and earth fell in front of her, two more blasts - one behind and one above her - brought more chunks of rock falling down on top of her, threatening to overwhelm and crush her.
A smug-looking smile appeared on the demon's dour face, feeling that he had finished the bothersome elf. But as the last of the debris settled and the dust began to clear, his look of satisfaction suddenly changed to one of disbelief, and then became barely-contained fury.
It had taken much of her energy, but Aranya Ver'Sarn had conjured and maintained a protective barrier about herself. The impact of the rocks had been absorbed by it, allowing them to fall around her and sparing her the damage that would have otherwise been done to her. She stood unharmed, a thin sweat coating her skin, her arms held up to shield her eyes from the surrounding dust as the magic that had protected her dissipated.
A sudden swift kick to her side from the dreadlord's hoof sent her sprawling to the ground once again, curling in on herself in pain.
Tezzakel stood fuming, his dark, singed wings flaring as he began advancing on the sin'dorei woman. Aranya curled up tighter, bringing her legs in as close to her body as she could get them. She crept one hand discreetly over her legs to reach just inside the cuff of one of her boots, grasping the hilt of one of the small hidden knives that she kept in them. As the demon stomped to a halt just in front of her, she swung her arm in an inside arc, turning her wrist up, and jabbing the knife into his leg as hard as she could. The blade pierced between muscle and bone, and the dreadlord roared in rage.
Taking advantage of the distraction that she had caused the demon - however fleeting - Aranya staggered to one of the two discarded lashes that had belonged to the sayaad sisters, grabbing it by the haft and gripping it tightly. The nathrezim turned and came barreling towards her, propelled by his wings rather than his legs, a look of pure hatred on his face. The elf stood her ground, watching and waiting for just the right moment. Once he was close enough, she uttered a spell that imbued the lash in her hands with fire, crackling down its length from end to end. Aranya snapped her weapon out at her foe - the burning instrument of pain wrapping around his neck - and then dashed to one side to avoid staying in his path. Tezzakel faltered and went crashing forward into the ground, clawing at the fiery coils around his neck, choking as they seared his throat with their unnatural heat. Not trusting that it would be enough to finish him, the sorceress once again channeled the spell that unleashed a barrage of arcane missiles upon her adversary, and with each pulse of the raw energy he was brought lower and lower.
She had blasted him, burned him, knifed him, brought him to his knees. Beaten him. He lay on the ground, gasping. Defeated, but still holding onto life.
Aranya stood tall as she approached the fallen dreadlord. Reaching down by his lower leg, she wrenched her boot knife free from the bleeding wound that she had inflicted on him, more of his dark blood spurting from it while he growled in agony. Reaching into her boot for her other hidden knife, the elf-woman incanted one last spell, both knives lifting into the air on their own, and then shooting forward to pierce through Tezzakel's hands, pinning them to the ground. He did not have the strength left in him to resist them.
Aranya had been battered, bruised, and the wounds bled on her arm and face from the demons' claws, but she had survived. She deserved to savor her prize.
"They say that demons cannot be killed, only banished back to the Nether," she said, drawing ever-nearer to the great horned head of the nathrezim. "Pity for you, then, that in this Nether-washed world you are at your gravest disadvantage." She climbed on top of him, straddling his chest. She grabbed his long, curved horns and yanked upwards, forcing him to look at her. She wanted to see his eyes while she did this. Wanted to watch how the truth of her words sank into his mind and how his life and power drained from him as she claimed them. Her burning gaze locked with his. He was powerless to look away. "Even if you endure and make your way back, you will be forever diminished. You will never get back what I take from you now."
Tapping into the essence of her prey and drawing his energy into herself was as easy as siphoning water, and oh, how Aranya had thirsted for this. She fed deeply, almost gasping as the magic flowed through her, hot and singing in her veins, enlivening her every sense. Her aches and bruises were forgotten as sound, scent, light and color all came into focus more acutely than she had ever perceived in recent memory. What remained of the lackluster feelings she had awoken with that day evaporated as if she had just gotten the best night's rest of her life in the span of one waking moment. The burning taste of the dreadlord's power was exquisite. Her shoulders arced and her head rolled back with the sublime sweetness of it.
The brilliant green of the blood elf's eyes blazed bright as the stars, while the eyes of the demon grew wide with horror, becoming ever-dimmer as he felt himself weakening, emptying, losing himself more and more. It wasn't long before he inevitably gave out. His eyes were glazed, blackened orbs of nothingness. His life-force gone, his mana absorbed by his killer.
Slowly, the sin'dorei arcanist stood to her feet. A feral glint shone in her eyes, a triumphant smirk on her mouth. "You should have tossed me off the edge of the world while you had the chance."
A chuckle started in her throat, swelling into a laugh. Grinning broadly, she threw her arms out and twirled around and around like a happy young girl. She felt incredible! Her entire being was glutted with power! The invigorating euphoria was intense!
It wouldn't last. Within several hours the craving would begin again, and not long after would come all the discomforts of the sickening withdrawal that went with it. For now, though, she would gather her weapons, return to Thrallmar, see to her injuries, revel in her hard-won victory, and savor the delicious feeling of magic that coursed in her blood for as long as it lasted.
It was a good day to be alive.
Sleepy green eyes opened to a day not yet touched by the sun.
The world was steeped in the silver half-light that came well before the warm colors that heralded the dawn. The stars still glittered brightly over the elegant roofs and immaculately-kept gardens of the Ver'Sarn villa. No birds sang, no owls hooted. All was still, quiet, and cool. The only noises to be heard were the faint, rhythmic shush of the darkened waters of the ocean rolling over the shore, the gentle burble of the Thalassian villa's many fountains, and the deep, sleeping breaths of Aranya's bed companion, lying next to her.
The Ver'Sarn heiress blinked, lifted her arms, arched her spine, stretched long and languidly, and then settled her body back down into the bed with a sigh, staring hard at nothing. She had been re-living a memory in her sleep, from the war in Outland, years ago. Dreaming of her first victory against a dreadlord. Such a glorious memory it was. Aranya had only ever slain a few such demons entirely on her own - nathrezim were not easy to kill - but the elation that came with such a feat was beyond price...
... As had been the other rewards that went with it, once.
Aranya's fingers curled into the soft bed, like a cat flexing its claws.
The dreams that had played out through her mind had been far too vivid. The elf-mage still felt the warmth of the fire-geysers of Hellfire Peninsula on her skin, tasted the ghost of fel energy at the back of her throat, and felt her head re-settling from the echoes of Outland's chaotic gravity. She could feel a familiar itch moving in her blood, re-awakened from a time when a life of siphoning magic seemed to be her fate, lest she succumb to pain, sickness, and madness, though it was a craving she had learned to tame and hold dormant years ago.
It wasn't so much the physical need for magic that she felt. The Sunwell had been rekindled and purified, tapping the mana of other creatures was no longer necessary. But the truth of the matter was, during those years of her life, something in Aranya's nature had been unearthed and fostered that never would have been known otherwise.
She liked it.
The psychological need for the hunt, the triumph, the feed - that had never gone away.
It had taken time and conscious, willful effort in the wake of the Sunwell's restoration, but she had gotten those predatory urges that flourished within her under control. Yet her unconscious mind was not bound by restraint, and the memories that she so vividly re-lived this night had allowed those feelings to rise unchecked to the surface. She felt anxious, desirous of an old thrill that gratified her, of knowing what it was to feast on your hard-earned prize and feel its energy thrumming through you.
Aranya pulled in a breath through the nose and let it go in a heavy exhale, her fingers curling into the sheets again. Lying here stewing in her restlessness wasn't going to do any good. Maybe some fresh air would help clear her head?
Carefully, the elf sorceress inched out of bed, mindful of her companion, not wanting to wake him, especially since it was still so early. Her toes touched the smooth, polished floor and she padded over to one of the various pieces of furniture in the room, draped with a soft, champagne-gold throw. Taking up the throw and wrapping it around herself, tucked snugly under her arms, she went over to the side of the room that opened out onto the main grounds of the villa, with a wondrous view of the ocean directly beyond. The wall of the room was high and arched, hung with gossamer drapes, typical of Thalassian interior design. Outside, the trees, shrubs, flowers, and hedges were artistically arranged for their aesthetic shapes and colors, and beautifully tended. Here was a spiraled bush, there was an enchanted planter floating just above the ground, full of blooms, and over there was an ornamental pond with a sort of dais overhanging it, similar to the one found at Sunstrider Isle.
There used to be a burning crystal perched at that dais, where her parents had once said their vows to each other. There used to be several of them spread out like ornamental statuary all across the villa, shining bright as emeralds under the daylight and glowing with their own fel illumination by night, but the arcanist had slowly rid herself of them since the demon lord Kil'jaeden's defeat.
Aranya moved one gossamer edge of hanging fabric aside from the wall as she leaned against the arch. The cool, coastal air wafting in from outside and through the room brought the smells of the world to her, and she inhaled deeply. Her elven senses could pick out the scent of the ocean, the Dreaming Glories that she had cultivated from Outland, the near-empty bottle of rum from the night before with her companion, and even his individual scent. She looked back over to the bed and smiled at his sleeping form for a moment, and then gazed out at the world again - up at the stars, down at the sea, her fel-kissed eyes soon focusing on nothing at all as she sank into thought.
The vividness of her dreams was already fading from her mind, but the feelings that they had stirred remained. It unsettled her. What was her unconscious mind telling her? Why had those memories re-visited her?
Maybe it was wishful desire, to deal with a certain dreadlord who had secured a place in her life as she had once dealt with others of his kind, and oh wouldn't that be sweet? Even after their business was done, Vethoreas had cunning enough to sink his claws back into her life again somehow. She knew it, he knew it, and she had been useful enough to him that he would do it, one way or another, if he felt it came to that.
Aranya imagined Vethoreas being the one drained by her hand, and a vicious smirk bloomed on her lovely face.
But maybe it wasn't Vethoreas alone that bothered her. Aranya had taken up sleuthing around the Shadow Council hotspots of Draenor, and recently a particular incident with this had ended in disaster. She had just barely escaped with her life, her clothes torn to shreds, lacerations all over her body, reeling from the raw power of the fel magics used against her, and it was certain that she would have died had she not been healed in time. The mage looked down at her arms, her flawless skin devoid of scars, the phoenix emblem tattooed at the inside edge of her wrist still a perfect, defiant sigil for all that she and her people stood for. Despite the healing that she had received, she still needed time to recover from the warlocks' work. It was why she was here, in Eversong, at her family's villa, because being in Quel'thalas and in nearer proximity to the holy Sunwell was the best thing for it. She felt better and better with every day that she felt its pure magic moving in and around her so closely, cleansing her of all that had touched her.
And maybe that was why these old memories came back to her now, because her mind recognized on a deeper level how the wounds of magic could permeate body and soul, until it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.
Sounds of movement coming from the bed distracted the arcanist's gaze back to her guest as he shifted in his sleep, and another fond smile found its way to her face.
"I'll go with you," he had said. She didn't ask him to come with her to the villa, he had just volunteered himself along, and she hadn't refused him. She was glad of his company. He kept her thinking of more pleasant things than what might await her when their stay was done.
Aranya murmured the words of a conjuring spell, magic word and gesture creating shining ripples of energy in an ultra-rapid rhythm around her hands, and when the spell was done, a glass of cool water appeared in her grasp. She sipped it thoughtfully, looking out at the sky, as if she could see far away to where the enchanted spires of a city that she had defended and called her home in the past kissed the clouds with their magic and splendor.
Some agents of Dalaran in her circle of acquaintances had expressed a particular interest in what had recently happened to her, what she may have found, and what she was up to. The Kirin Tor's subtlety with her about such things had been waning ever since Tezzakel had been encountered alive in this other Draenor, from whence the Iron Horde had come. They even implied speaking with their colleagues and superiors about "common interests" and "the fate of all" in some of the most appallingly tactless and near-blatant terms to her face. They could all go to hell. Her actions in that time-displaced world were not under the jurisdiction of the Scryers, so they could not go over her head to negotiate or demand anything from her, and Dalaran's stance with regards to the Horde was already made abundantly clear by Lady Proudmoore. No, Aranya would proceed as she saw fit.
"You alright, love?" The masculine voice disturbed the silence like a fish when it rises to the surface of the water, quickly flipping back down into the deeps and leaving ripples spreading over the surface of the stillness in its wake. "Everything okay?"
Aranya turned to look over her shoulder at her companion, giving him a warm smile and silently nodding by way of an answer. She took another sip from her water glass as she looked out across the villa grounds again, and without looking back softly said, "Go back to sleep."
"Come back to bed."
Aranya's eyebrows lifted at his tone, and she turned to see the smirking look that he fixed on her, his eyes glittering in the low light, the slant of his head and shoulders holding an air of confident anticipation as he reclined with one of his elbows propping himself up. The message was clear, this wasn't up for discussion.
The corners of the she-elf's mouth pulled up into a lopsided smile. She came away from the arch, crossing the room over to the bed, trying not to pay attention to the appraising sweep of his eyes on her as she set the water glass aside and discarded the throw blanket that had been wrapped around her to the floor. The coolness of the too-early hour made her bare skin prickle as she slid back into bed where he awaited her with his warmth. It didn't take long, as he held her close and the chill crept out of her bones, for her shivering to diminish.
But there was still that other feeling lingering underneath her skin, simmering in her blood.
He was quick to catch on. "Something on your mind?" he asked, raising one of his hands to the side of her face and sweeping his fingers into her hair. "You seem preoccupied."
"Hm? Oh, I..." Aranya hesitated, gathering up the pieces of her thoughts and trying to fit them together to form an answer. "My dreams trouble me," she confessed.
His brows furrowed sharply, at once concerned. "How so?" he asked. "What did you dream of?"
A smile bloomed across the arcanist's face as she answered, "Old victories..." But then her smile melted just a little, her gaze coming to rest on her slender fingers splayed over the pillow. They flexed just the smallest bit. "And old hungers." She didn't elaborate any more than that.
She didn't really have to, he had enough presence of mind to ascertain for himself the most likely thing that she could have meant by that. Still, he had an air of restrained curiosity about him, as though he wanted to ask more about what aspect of her dreams it was exactly that was causing her mind disquiet, but he didn't want to pry.
Aranya met the eyes of her bedmate. "I'll tell you about it later," she promised. "Right now I just..." She trailed off, and turned over in his arms with a sigh. "I don't really want to think about it anymore for now."
"I can help you forget," he offered, in a low purr right next to her long, pointed ear. The sorceress grinned at his invitation, and he nuzzled her hair and kissed at the skin of her skull just behind the shell of her ear, then nipped at her neck while his hand smoothed over the curve of her hip, and then his hand moved across that curve and crept further down...
Aranya breathed a soft, near-silent growl from low in her throat while her hips arched back into him of their own accord.
That had done it.
She could feel the smile on his lips, resting at the edge of her shoulder-blade, as his fingers stroked deeper and her breaths turned into soft, long-drawn gasps, her fingers curling and clutching into her pillow. His lips brushed along the line of her shoulder, before his hand came up to nudge it down towards the bed, and for a moment the mage was on her back. She wasn't going have any of that, however. She lifted herself up, her hands coming up to grasp his shoulders, and she turned them both over.
The hungering within her was roaring for an outlet. This would be as good an option as any.
There was a feral light in the fel-soaked eyes of the Ver'Sarn heiress as she smiled above her partner. A small toss of her head and her hair fell over to one side, hanging like a black silk curtain just out of the way of her face. Her hands moved up from his shoulders and her fingers threaded into his hair as she bent forward to kiss him deep and lustfully on the mouth, every now and again her tongue flashing out to meet his, or catching his lower lip between her teeth. She lifted one long leg over him, straddling him, and pressed her lips to the side of his neck, just below his ear. She could feel the blood beating under his warm skin as she trailed bites and kisses from there down to his collarbone.
Aranya loosed her fingers from his hair and shifted her weight as she began kissing down his body, her mouth inching its way down the surface of his chest, further and further down his stomach. Down, down, until he gasped once she reached what she sought. His eyes slid closed and his fingers slid loosely into her hair. She could have smiled at how those fingers curled.
Coming up again so that her thighs were astride his hips, she bent forward for more hot, fervid kisses on his mouth, nipping along the line of his jaw and to the edge of his ear. His hands wandered up and down the sorceress' back, sliding over her soft skin and kneading at the muscles underneath, until one of those hands snaked under her, between her parted thighs to hold himself, brushing at her center. Aranya lowered, slow and easy, both of them savoring the snug fit of their bodies.
The elf-woman sat back, licking her lips, her luminescent green eyes glittering brightly through the soft half-light that illuminated the room from the outside. Her partner gazed up at her with a wide, prurient smile on his face, taking in everything that he could see. She gave him a wily smile of her own, and began curling her hips in a steady rhythm, slowly rising in pace.
His hands gripped firmly at those hips riding him, then traveled with an ardent thoroughness up her stomach, over her ribs, to cup her smooth breasts, and Aranya's head rolled back with a soft moan, the sound restrained by how she bit her lower lip. Her own hands glided along the contours of her paramour's arms and chest, coming to rest at his shoulders, gripping them, the tips of her slender fingers digging in as they flexed.
The room became filled with the sounds of heated sighs, moans, and gasps as the pair touched, tasted, and explored every inch of each other they could reach, never losing the passionate tempo between them.
But unexpectedly, Aranya stopped. "Hold still," she said. When he did not heed her, she seized his hands and pinned them to the bed, magic frost coating her grip to make a point. "Hold still," she commanded, looking him straight in the eyes. Seeing that she had his attention, she moved so that her lips hovered over his, their corners curling up in a sly smile. "I just want to feel you for a minute," she murmured. So saying, she brought her mouth down on his, at the same time that she flexed the muscles at her center, wrapped snugly around him, squeezing him.
He was suddenly very willing to obey.
They stayed like that for a while, with Aranya grasping around him, kissing him, savoring what it felt like to hold and grip him inside her, making soft sounds when he flexed and twitched a few muscles of his own in return for her. Droplets of water glistened on them where the frost on their hands had rapidly melted as the arcanist's fingers found their way into her lover's hair once again and his arms wrapped around her. For all intents and purposes, he allowed himself to be at her mercy. Still, he eagerly returned to rolling his hips underneath her once he felt her motions return to the undulations of their previous dance, biting her shoulder in his enthusiasm, while she gently bit his ear with a soft growl.
It still wasn't enough.
The predatory hunger aroused within her demanded more.
The sorceress could only too easily perceive the magic that resided in her bedmate's form, pulsing in his blood. Her every elvish sense was alive to it, and honed in on it instinctively. She reached for it with her own, coiling into his veins. Aranya had no intention of feeding on him, but there were other ways to channel and use power, and she drew on his shamelessly, winding it tightly with hers, until they were so entwined at every level of being that she could have sworn they shared a single heartbeat. It was difficult to tell whose essence thrummed more excitedly in the heat of the moment.
Clarity of mind was not entirely lost for the arcanist, however. All her energies were absolutely focused... Focused in drawing on her lover's inherent magic... Drawing it from him and focusing it similarly to how she would in a spell...
Focusing it right where she needed it.
The wave of her release built up inside her, rising, cresting, and then crashing, rolling and flooding through her, sending her writhing and gasping out cries of ecstasy as she rode it for as far as it would take her.
The glow of euphoria set in as the throes of her climax began to subside, and with the edge taken off of her hunger, Aranya let her swain have control now. He swiftly turned them both over and had her lying back on the bed, pinned underneath him. The pair exchanged wide smiles as she hooked her long legs around him and he pressed in, slow and smooth, both of them adjusting to the new rhythm that he set. She clung to him as his thrusts grew faster, moved deeper, gripping at his shoulders and leaving shallow marks down the skin of his back with her short nails. He lowered his upper frame so that their bodies were pressed close, intimately embraced, and as he neared his moment he bid one thing of her.
"Look at me."
Aranya's burning green eyes locked with his. Their color was washed with light from the first rays of the morning's sunrise when they looked at him, shining for him like molten gold, watching as he shuddered and gasped...
For a while, the two of them rested just as they were, too spent to move for the moment. Breathless, chests heaving, both of them quivering and coming down slowly from that celestial height that they had brought each other to. When they found their breath again, many soft, tender kisses were shared between them, and finally Aranya's companion withdrew himself from inside her, collapsing next to her and pulling her close against himself in a comfortable embrace. The mage happily snuggled alongside her bedmate, satisfied, content.
The feral side of her was sated, for now.
It was a good day to be alive.