Thalorien Dawnseeker knocked, just once. His rank allowed him many concessions, knocking only once at the doors to the prince’s private suite was one of them. The fact that they had been friends for the better part of a century likely helped somewhat.
The twin doors were as massive as Sunstrider Spire would allow. The chambers of the royal heir demanded incredible opulence, even by high elf standards. Thalorien smiled wryly, remembering how much the doors had terrified him as a child. The size of the doors, the vaguely unsettling gold designs coating them, the imperious creaks they made when moved, even the exaggerated sluggishness and overwrought snideness of the butler, all of that was engineered to intimidate.
Now, he merely found it trying. Far too much of elven society was focused on social standing and prestige. Though he supposed such a thing was inevitable when everyone was, technically, nobility. When a society cannot mark differences with gender, caste, class, race or wealth, why not make up pointless criteria revolving around drinking tea, pithy remarks and dresses instead?
The doors began to swing open, the shadow of the regal butler cast out into the hall, her features greatly exaggerated by a source of light on the floor behind her.
“Afternoon, master Dawnseeker.” she said. “The Master is expecting you.”
Thalorien nodded curtly, brushing past her. He had liked the previous butler much better; the old elf had been very friendly and warm. This new one was much colder, professional. Which, Thalorien supposed, was how butlers were supposed to act. The old one had acted much more grandfatherly. It showed, though; nearly everyone who’d had business with the prince had gone to his faithful butler’s funeral.
Thalorien still felt terrible that he had never bothered to find out the man’s name.
Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider was in his study, staring blankly at a portrait of himself on the wall, his body tense. A pot of tea, with several cups, rested on the table in front of him, untouched.
“Kael.” said Thalorien, entering the room.
Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider visibly relaxed. “Close the door behind you, Thal.”
Thalorien closed the door with a soft click, then seated himself on one of the luxurious, heavily cushioned couch-like pieces of furniture.
“I am… glad you came, Thal.” said Kael’thas.
“You know I would. We’ve been friends for… what, a hundred years now?”
Kael’thas smiled warmly. “Since primary schooling, I believe. It’s been to long since you’ve stopped by like this.”
“You haven’t been here. What am I to do, stop by your empty quarters and have a chat with your ice butler? You spend far too much time in Dalaran.”
“I am an archmage, Thal. I can’t exactly leave the city whenever I wish. It’s especially difficult now, with these green skinned creatures in the south. Um, needless to say, nobody beyond you ever learns I’m an archmage.”
“Your secrets are always safe with me, Kael. You know that.”
Kael’thas grimaced. “I have heard that before. And yet, every time, a little something just happens to slip out.”
“I’ll have you know I have a terrible disorder. I can’t help but tell my friends’ dirty secrets to naked ladies lying on top of me. There’s no cure, I’m afraid. Very sad.”
“I can think of at least a couple cures.”
“Speaking of castration, how was she?” Thalorien asked.
“What… how was… who?”
“Come on, Kael. You didn’t even try to deny it during the Council meeting. She must have been special.”
Kael’thas frowned. “Thal.”
“What? My question was perfectly innocent and devoid of innuendo of any sort.”
“You ask, ‘how was she’, and I know – I know – you mean in terms of bedroom performance.”
“Or kitchen performance, dining hall performance, balcony performance; who am I to judge, she might be the adventurous sort! You never can tell with you mage types.”
“See, this is why I never talk to you about girls.”
Thalorien smirked. “What, because I’m an insatiable man whore and you’re a hopelessly naive romantic?”
Kael’thas shook his head. “No, because you’re an insatiable man… well yes, precisely that… I am not hopelessly naive!”
“Really.” Thalorien raised an eyebrow. “I believe you completely and have no doubts whatsoever. Please, enlighten me to what attracted you to this obviously fantastic woman.”
“Well, she…” Kael’thas began to blush.
“Oh no. You’re blushing. This is far worse than I thought. You’ve fallen for the fancy wench, haven’t you?”
“She is not a wench! She… she’s…” Kael’thas fumbled for words. “She’s… different. She doesn’t… care about politics, social norms, stuff like that. She’s just so much more… real than most of the other mages. She doesn’t judge, ignores all the normal social shams we surround ourselves with. She’s got… ideas, Thal. Ideals… like she wants to change the world, and knows how she’s going to do it, even she-”
“Oh Light, stop. Please stop.”
“Look, Kael, I know you mean well, but… honestly, you sound like a wide eyed schoolboy having a crush for the first time.”
“I knew you wouldn’t understand.” Kael’thas crossed his arms and looked away. “You just don’t get it, Thal. You can’t, can you? You don’t even know what love is, let alone what it’s like to experience such a thing.”
“Right, yes, now you sound like a whiny wide eyed schoolboy having a crush for the first time.”
“Look, Thal, what do you want me to say? I’m so… so… tired of this! Of having to dance around so many pointless criteria, of having to play nice to the ‘right’ people, look down on the ‘wrong’ people. I am a prince, Thal! I should be mighty! I should be respected! Instead I am thrown from the room like a child because I dared to do something my peers find strange! All this political bullshit, I am sick of it!”
Kael’thas steadied himself, and carefully poured himself a cup of tea. He sipped it, just as gently, then glared at the cup, his rage returning in full force.
“And this!” he said, waving the cup about. “What is this? What am I doing?”
“You’re waving a cup of tea about to make a point?”
“Yes! …Technically! Shut up! I am ‘taking tea’! What does that even mean? It’s ritual, courtly bullshit, etiquette and prestige. Why can I not just drink tea however I wish? It is a drink, I drink it. Why does it matter how I drink it?”
“I drink it just so, tilt my head just so, my fingers poised just so, because I am the prince! The royal heir! I am expected to act a certain way, and if I don’t, it is a scandal. Is this what it means to be a royal? Just superficial details? Where is the honour? Where is the nobility, real nobility, not this parody we have in Silvermoon!” Kael’thas stood, viciously tossing his half empty cup of tea at the portrait of himself on the wall. The cup shattered, knocking the portrait off centre.
The portrait hung, crooked and stained.
Kael’thas walked towards it, gently straightening the frame. “I am sorry you had to see that.”
“I’m not.” Thalorien said. “Listen, Kael, how good is your butleress?”
“She’s the best. Where are you going with this?”
“Go to your darling in Dalaran.”
Kael’thas snorted. “I am in contempt of the king, I cannot leave, not withou-”
“You’ve fallen ill, sadly. The fever hit you very quickly, and there are concerns you may be contagious. You’ve been restricted to your private quarters, and cannot see anyone until you get better. It may be several weeks before you recover fully.”
Kael’thas turned to face his friend, his expression sceptical. “And what happens when my father sends for priests?”
“You wouldn’t happen to know anyone with a great deal of influence over the Church, would you? Say, one of the two people technically in charge of it?”
Kael’thas chuckled softly, almost sadly. “You would do this? I am not the greatest of friends Thal.”
“Yes, you are rather terrible at the whole friendship thing. I don’t care how busy you are with your archmage archmagyness, at least send me a letter filled with the titillating tales of your life every now and then.” Thalorien stood, then added much more softly, “Go to her, Kael, go change the world.”
Dozens of emotions flitted across Kael’thas’ face, finally settling on something very soft and vulnerable. “Thal, I… well, I mean…”
“The words you’re looking for is ‘thanks a bunch, brother of another mother.’”
“Are. The words are.” said Kael’thas, a smile starting to develop.
“Yes, correct my grammar, how wonderful. Here I am trying to have a touchy feely moment with my best friend who I haven’t seen in, oh, two years, and you are more interested correcting my speech patterns.”
“You love it.”
“Never change, Kael. I don’t think I could bear a world where you weren’t an idiot.”
In a matter of several minutes, Kael’thas gathered what few possessions he had brought with him, and teleported himself back to the confines of Dalaran.
Thalorien remained in the room for some time, as the arcane energies dissipated from the magical transportation. Almost reverently, he moved to Kael’thas’ crooked portrait, then carefully straightened it. He supposed he would need to call another mage in at some point to remove the tea stains. Or he could leave it.
“You look better with a horrible skin disease anyway.” He grinned briefly, the smile fading as quick as it had come. He took another step forward, leaning his forehead on the ruined painting. “Sometimes I wish you would change, just a little…”