Nothing Without You
The incense was familiar, a mixture of spices and herbs that brought back memories of her earliest days as a novice in the Temple of Elune. She had been so innocent then, with no inkling of what the future held. Everything had been so simple in those days. Now she was jaded...bitter...conflicted... She was...
She was lying flat on her back on some kind of bench or divan. Maiev opened her eyes with difficulty, fighting her reluctant body to regain consciousness. She was still wearing her stained armor but that alone couldn't explain how stiff she was. It felt as if she hadn't moved in days. Perhaps she hadn't.
Soft moonlight streamed in an open window above her, and she gasped in recognition. This was not the sickly glow that bathed the shattered remnants of Draenor. This was the pure, blessed light of Elune Herself. She was back on Azeroth! But how? Where?
Maiev attempted to sit up but found herself too weak to even lift her head from the pillow. Looking around in confusion, she searched for some clue as to her location. It was an ancient building, that was clear. The marble had a faded, neglected look about it, and the style of architecture reminded her of nothing more than Zin-Azshari before the Sundering.
As she slowly regained her senses, she heard movement in the adjoining room. Someone was moving bottles...stirring and pouring liquids...scraping something hard.
She tried again to move and this time managed to raise her head a few inches, only to flop back immediately due to a rush of dizziness.
As she closed her eyes to shut out the spinning room, memories came surging back. Akama... Illidan... Oh, dear Elune, Illidan... The Black Temple... A stranger...
No, not a stranger. Although it had been thousands of years and he had been only an infant then, her heart knew him. Maeldan. Her son. The son of the man she had just killed.
Maiev swallowed and tried to speak. Her lips were cracked and dry and her voice was a faint whisper. How long had she been unconscious?
Footsteps approached and she turned her head toward the sound.
"You're awake," came a masculine voice.
Maiev merely stared, studying every inch of the night elf in the doorway. Now bare-headed and clad in black pants and a high-collared blue tunic, he bore a striking resemblance to Illidan. He even favored a high ponytail, albeit a far more tidy one than his father's. He wore a stony, impassive expression, his golden eyes regarding her with interest.
"Maeldan," she whispered.
"I know you have many questions. All will be answered in time."
"In time," he interrupted with a scowl. "I have more than a few questions for you, too, as you can imagine." He held out a small vial filled with a faintly glowing blue liquid. "Drink this."
"It will restore your strength. Although you saved me the trouble by fainting initially, I did have to take extra...precautions. This will counteract them." Seeing that her hands were too shaky to hold the vial, he carefully tipped it against her lips.
She swallowed the sweet liquid and immediately felt energy begin to flood her body.
"Stay still a bit longer yet," he instructed. "You haven't moved in nearly four days; it will take a few minutes for the potion to return you to normal."
"Four days?" Her eyes widened.
"Yes. It was no easy task transporting you both without drawing unwanted attention."
"Both? Who else is here? And where is here?" Against his instructions, Maiev sat up on the edge of the divan. The room began to spin again so she closed her eyes for a moment. "And why did you bring me here? How did you find me? What do you want?"
"We are on an island in the Bay of Storms. The rest of your questions are a bit more complicated to explain."
"Try," Maiev snapped.
Maeldan sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I've waited my entire life to meet you and now I...I don't know where to begin."
"Begin by telling me how you found out that I'm your mother."
"High Priestess Tyrande told me, assuming you were dead."
"Hoping I was dead, more like it. That meddling bitch!" Maiev removed one of her armored gloves and fired it onto the floor with a noise of disgust. "I expressly forbid her to ever tell you!"
"You were that afraid of having to see me again?" His frown faltered into a pained expression.
"Yes! I mean, no. That's not... For your own sake, Maeldan. You've no idea what the situation was...is...was," she said awkwardly, still trying to accept the thought of Illidan's death.
"I have a much better idea than you think," he said, looking down his prominent nose at her. "After I learned your identity it didn't take me long to piece the rest together. When I confronted Tyrande she couldn't deny it. I knew then that you were my mother, and Illidan Stormrage was my father."
Maiev paled. "No! That's not true! I never--"
"You never admitted it, but that doesn't mean it isn't true."
"Th-that's absurd, how could you even--"
"Spare me the lies, Mother. It's just you and me here and we both know it's the truth."
Maiev covered her eyes with her hand and shook her head. "As I said, you were never to know. For your own sake. For your own safety."
"What about my own peace of mind? Do you know what it was like, growing up and never knowing where I came from?"
Still hiding behind her hand, Maiev spoke quietly. "I had no other choice. I'm sorry."
"You obviously didn't want to have me, so what went wrong?" he asked bitterly.
Maiev dropped her hand and met his gaze with a hard glare. "I did want you. No, your birth was not planned, but I loved you from the moment I felt your presence. I know leaving you in the temple's care wasn't the ideal solution but it was the only one I had. Walking away without you was one of the hardest things I have ever done." Almost as hard as killing your father, she added silently. "Don't you see, I gave you a chance! A chance to live a normal life and avoid all the complicated, awful...mess that you were born into!"
"A normal life? As a confused and abandoned orphan? Listening to my elders whisper behind my back and panic every time I showed aptitude for dark magics?"
Maiev shrugged helplessly. "What's done is done. I did what I thought was best for you...and for myself, I'll admit that. But first and foremost, I wanted to make sure you weren't punished for the mistakes of your parents."
Maeldan sank into a chair facing her and studied his hands for a moment. When he finally spoke again he did not look up at her. "Was I the result of love? Pity? Rape? A meaningless way to pass time?"
A deep sigh shuddered from her chest. "Oh, Maeldan... It's complicated. I...we..."
"A simple yes or no will do," he said quietly. "Did you love my father?"
The answer came immediately. "Yes. Oh, yes."
He looked up, surprised by the conviction in her voice.
"Yes, I loved him. Always." She blinked away the beginnings of more tears, determined not to give in to such weakness. "But fate, stubborness, idiocy, hatred, vengeance, duty, Tyrande, the Legion, magic and sometimes, it seemed, life itself came between us. Destiny threw us together time and time again, but never for real. It was not meant to be. We hurt each other terribly, Illidan and I. He killed some of my oldest friends, and nearly my brother... And I...well, among other things, I...killed him." Maiev paused, staring blankly at the wall. "It was the only way. He had become a monster, not the arrogant, sharp-tongued but wonderful man I had known for ten thousand years."
"The Skull of Gul'dan..."
"Yes, and the Eye of Sargeras. The damned fool thought he could absorb all that demonic power and remain in complete control." She made a noise halfway between a laugh and a sob. "The true Illidan was still there, underneath it all...somehow. But he was getting further away all the time, closed off by madness and corruption."
Maeldan was listening intently, leaning forward in his chair.
"I should have let him die after he battled Arthas and lost, but I couldn't. I was weak. I loved him. I never thought--" She shook her head. "I had to end it."
"I understand," he said softly.
"I'm sorry you never got to meet him." Maiev stood unsteadily. "And I wish the circumstances were different, but...I am so glad to meet you after all this time. Illidan may be gone, but a part of him lives on in you." She sank into a crouch and embraced her son.
After a moment's awkwardness, Maeldan returned the gesture. They remained thus for some time, savoring a feeling of completeness that had been missing for far too long.
At last, Maeldan broke away and guided his mother back to the divan. "Mother, there's something else I need to discuss." He sat down beside her. "You see, I didn't bring you here to Azshara for the scenery. I have a theory... That is, I've done extensive research from Ashenvale to Dalaran, from Silithus to Quel'Thalas, and I've pieced together an idea." He began speaking faster, clearly nervous. "I don't know why it wouldn't work, although I haven't tried it yet. Please understand, it's not necromancy! I do have great skill with shadow magics but I would never stoop to something that foul, not to mention dangerous, and--"
"Maeldan, slow down and at least attempt to make sense."
He squinted, trying to organize his thoughts. "All right, I'll try to explain from the beginning. Everyone knows that strong light will cast a shadow behind an object. What few realize is that strong magic also creates a shadow, of sorts. It's rarely detectable, even to those who know to look for it. Only the strongest magic leaves significant traces: opening portals to other worlds, summoning the greatest demons, that sort of thing. But no burst of magical energy has ever been more powerful than the Sundering."
Maiev nodded slowly, understanding so far.
He continued. "The entire world was bathed in an intense outpouring of the purest, most powerful magic ever known. As a result, at that moment every living being with any sort of magical ability left an indelible imprint of themselves on the very fabric of the world."
She raised an eyebrow. "I don't recall such a thing."
"You wouldn't have felt it, not through the intensity of the Sundering itself. It also takes immense skill in the shadow arts to identify whose imprint you are looking at, and still greater skill to isolate that particular essence from the layered tapestry of energies." He shifted his weight and broke eye contact uncertainly. "I believe...I mean, it's theoretically possible, in the hands of a powerful sorcerer, to take this imprint and use it to restore its maker to life."
"I told you, it's not necromancy."
"I don't care what you call it, it's madness!"
"Listen! The person would retain all the knowledge and memories they gained up until their death, but their physical form would mirror how they appeared at the exact moment of the Sundering. And, once extracted from the magical structure of the world, it would be impossible to restore the individual that way again. It's never been done but all my studies indicate that, under a unique set of circumstances, it would be possible."
Maiev regarded him warily. "So now what? You're suggesting this insane scheme would bring your father back?"
Maeldan grinned in a devious way that recalled Illidan a bit too vividly for Maiev's comfort. "Precisely."
"You can't be serious!" She stood and backed up a few steps, mouth agape in outrage. "Even if your idea worked, you'd be raising a monster! Weren't you listening to me? I told you how I had no choice but to end his life, for the safety of entire worlds!"
"I was listening. Very closely, in fact. You said the true Illidan was buried beneath all the demonic corruption and trapped by the situation."
"If my plan works, he'll be revived looking just as he did at the moment of the Sundering--before the Skull of Gul'dan, before the Eye of Sargeras, before Frostmourne..."
"Very well, but even then he was still a reckless, selfish bastard who had been blinded and marked by Sargeras."
Maeldan gave a thin smile. "Just as he was when you fell in love with him."
"I-- I--" Maiev sputtered. "That's not--"
"We have nothing to lose." He stood and walked to the doorway. "I will need your assistance, however."
"No! I want no part in this abominable scheme! You are just like your father, dipping far too deeply into dark magic, so convinced of your own ability to control the situation that you lose all perspective." She rose and followed him into the adjacent room. "Your hubris will only lead you to ruin, just like--" Maiev stopped in her tracks at the sight that greeted her in the main room.
On a low marble altar, covered from the chest down by a white sheet, and looking every bit as ashen as a four-day-old corpse should, was Illidan.
"By the Mother Moon," Maiev gasped, steadying herself on a table. "You could have warned me."
Maeldan said nothing. He circled the room, carefully arranging chunks of crystal in wall sconces once occupied by lanterns.
Maiev slowly approached the altar, half-expecting Illidan to spring up and attack her, and devastated by the thought that he never would. Once again the sickening hollowness within her seemed too much to bear.
"Damn you," she whispered. "I never wanted it to end like this."
Maeldan inspected the final crystal in the array and turned back to her. "It is ready."
Without turning to face him, Maiev replied, "So am I."
"I will channel the spell and give the incantation. I only need one thing from you." He came to her side and handed her a long, curved dagger. "When I throw this yellow powder into the fire, I need you to spill a few drops of your blood onto his body. The spell requires living blood from someone with a strong connection to the deceased. I can't think of a better person for the job than you."
Maiev studied the keen blade intently, almost dreamily. "Yes. Perfect." She stood by the altar, a host of emotions flickering across her face as she looked down at Illidan's body.
The younger elf brought his hands together over the largest of the crystals. His form shimmered and faded, leaving him an insubstantial, almost ghostlike figure that appeared more shadow than flesh and blood. He had appeared this way when Maiev first saw him in the Black Temple but familiarity did nothing to lessen the unsettling effect.
Maeldan began to murmur a spell, part song and part chanting, until a faint halo of purple energy crackled from his fingertips, into the crystal beneath his hands, and then bounced around the room to each of the crystals in wall sconces. Once the circle was complete the glow intensified and a faint humming filled the air.
Maiev watched, entranced, as strange lights and sounds flickered around her. Her son was speaking an ancient dialect, one that had been archaic in Azshara's day, and mixed into it she caught snatches of other languages, some known to her but most unfamiliar.
She closed her eyes to soften the dizzying storm of energy swirling around the room.
He was chanting faster now, and she marveled at his ability to recite it all flawlessly from memory. There was no denying his talent for sorcery. Still, Maiev had not the slightest expectation that this bizarre ritual would succeed. There was no hope.
Sensing he was nearing the crucial moment, she opened her eyes again just in time to see him throw a handful of dust into the small brazier in front of him. A yellow flash momentarily blinded them both but he continued the complex incantation.
"I'm sorry, Maeldan," Maiev whispered, knowing he couldn't hear her. "I have to be with him. That hasn't changed." She took a deep breath. "I love you both." She plunged the dagger into her chest, and knew no more.