Varok Saurfang was decidedly too old for this.
Dealing with the troll boy-shaman (who had decided, effective immediately, that Saurfang was his new father figure) was one thing.
Dealing with the kid and the boy king from the Alliance was another thing entirely.
The two had become as thick as thieves as soon as they were introduced to each other, marveling at the fact that their abilities were very similar at first. Now they had bonded over the fact they had a great thirst for exploring new places and finding new creatures, getting into a lot of trouble in the process. Varok was a little relieved that the troll boy was not following him everywhere like a puppy anymore, choosing instead to get into all kinds of trouble with the little lion and pulling pranks on everyone. At least they wouldn’t bother him anymore and he’d have peace.
He was wrong, he got no peace from that friendship. He felt he had gained 10 years from it, actually. For the first time since they met, Varok Saurfang and Genn Greymane had something in common: Headaches.
Zekhan had found a bunch of dragonhawk hatchlings in the middle of a battle and being the noble dumbass he was, threw his entire stupid body at them to shield them from any damage the Banshee Queen might want to do to the little creatures.
Of course the stupid boy king would choose to shield both the troll boy and the hatchlings with his own stupid human body which was much more delicate than a troll or even an orc's body. Wonderful.
“Protect the king!” Hollered one of the little elf hunters. Dorn, a young orc, leaped to the task, screaming the same thing. Behind him, countless Alliance soldiers ran to defend their king.
Dorn got his entire back covered in arrows, but he didn’t move from his position on top of Anduin and Zekhan. He groaned in pain but endured it, never once moving until they were surrounded by metal shields and safe from harm. The boy king openly sobbed as he and the young troll took the orc to safety while the soldiers protected them from the rain of arrows. He openly sobbed as he tried to cure his savior’s wounds with the Light. Dorn would live to see another battle, but the boy king felt guilty.
The Lady Proudmoore was not happy.
“What were you both thinking charging like that? You could have died!” She yelled, probably louder than the Banshee Queen herself, Zekhan looked like he’d never been yelled at by a woman, Anduin pouted the whole time. The hatchlings chirped miserably in the troll’s arms. “And what are those?”
“Dragonhawk’s, aunt Jaina…" Anduin suplied uselessly. "They were in the middle of the battlefield.”
The Lady Proudmoore’s shoulders fell and her face softened a little. She petted Zekhan’s hair gently, and then Anduin’s.
“I fear you are both too noble and gentle for this battle...”
“I fear they are both too stupid!” Varok spat, Jaina raised a brow at him, no doubt trying to intimidate the old orc, but it was no use.
“Be careful how you speak of the king, Overlord Saurfang.”
“It’s true and he should say it, klad.” Aggra stood from her chair, her belly was barely noticeable but everyone knew she carried a third child. Saurfang had a bit of respect for that. He had only tried for one child when his mate still lived, and here Go'el was, having three. “They both were very noble, noble and stupid. There’s no glory to be had in a death like that. And Dorn could have died as well because of you. Be more careful next time. If you wish to act like reckless children, maybe we should have you stay behind with the mothers and their babes.”
Anduin was glaring at the floor and pouting like a petulant child, Zekhan’s ears were turned down in shame. The hatchlings chirped gently.
“Go and leave those hatchlings where their mother can find them, and for the love of all the spirits, stay out of trouble. This one isn’t due until a few more months, I don't need this kind of stress.” Aggra patted their shoulders and ushered them out of the tent. The two boys could hear her and Jaina speak in hushed tones, but didn't realize what they spoke of.
"Klad, do you think it wise for them to remain friends?" Aggra asked carefully, Jaina offered her a small smile.
"He makes Anduin laugh, he's acting like a boy his age for once. I'll allow it if only to hear him laugh again. It's been so long..."
Varok snorted and left the tent as well, he could already see the two boys skipping away, no doubt planning some more mischief despite the telling they’d just endured. Something told him they were going to do everything but put the hatchlings where their mother could find them. He shook his head and went after them.
He was too old for this, but looking at them, mere boys just being themselves probably for the first time in their lives, he couldn't help but think. That could have been his son. He'd almost forgotten what his laughter sounded like until he heard theirs as they tried (and failed) to climb a tree while holding the dragonhawks in their arms.
He'd have to protect them more fiercely now.
In wich Talanji makes an appearance, there's gossip and Anduin gets learned on some stuff.
I wasn't going to do this, but this idea was floating in my head all morning.
I just came up with Rui'An, Turante Leafstar and Mastani a while ago, they are champions of both factions and Anduin's personal gang lol
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Zekhan, son of Hekazi, had discovered while running around with the High King of Stormwind that Anduin Llane Wrynn never noticed shit.
The boy had been face to face with Dorn Wolfheart for at least ten minutes and then spent another half an hour healing him while sobbing before he allowed anyone to check on him and he still sat there by the fire, next to Zekhan a whole week later and had the audacity to ask him who that was.
"You serious, mon?" Zekhan raised a barely there brow. "Das Dorn Wolfheart! He saved our lives!"
"What? That's Dorn?"
"Whatcha mean? Ya didn't know?"
"Wasn't paying attention, I guess." Anduin shrugged. "He was covered in blood and dirt and things and I didn't notice his face really."
Zekhan frowned and looked at Anduin like he was some sort of pink goblin. Or a harpy. Or both. Anduin was looking forward as Dorn Wolfheart spoke to some rangers and the troll shaman could swear the High King was swooning.
Why he was doing such a thing when Dorn Wolfheart wasn't all that much was beyond Zekhan, but hey, he was just starting to notice girl trolls looked different from boy trolls and that difference made them appealing. He figured he liked girls approximately six months ago, too busy as a child and teen preparing to be a shaman of the Horde to notice female trolls. He wasn't going to judge Anduin on his poor choice in whatever it was the king liked.
Dorn was still ugly as sin to Zekhan. Most orcs were. The girls were fine, he supposed. And elves were weird looking, like humans with longer ears. The Lady Sylvanas always creeped him out and he could never put his finger on why, most of the blood elves were these mysterious people who spoke in cryptic ways and Zekhan wasn't sure he liked them, but he respected them. Humans were no better. He wasn't hanging around with Anduin because he thought Anduin was handsome or anything but because they understood each other. It was funny how this human with hair like threads of gold could understand Zekhan so much.
Even when this new war against the Banshee Queen was over, he liked to believe they would probably still be friends. Anduin said he was good friends with the chieftain of the Taurens, and it had been true. Baine almost suffocated Anduin in a hug when they saw each other.
But that was neither here nor there.
"Do ya like 'im, mon?" Zekhan asked casually, just as Anduin was taking a sip of the disgusting concoction Vereesa Windrunner called soup. It went up Anduin's nose and made him choke and go all red faced. He glared at the young troll and Zekhan grinned and shrugged. "Just askin'!"
Early on in their newly formed friendship, Anduin had confided to Zekhan that while he liked girls and had even kissed a few ladies now and then, he sometimes felt the same kind of attraction for men, though he had never been intimate or even kissed one. Zekhan was understanding. The loa made different people attracted to different people. He did have a good laugh at Anduin's retelling of how he felt both scared and a little turned on when Varok Saurfang had been so close to him in that one jail cell. Later he would look at Anduin like he had revealed something terrible along the line of eating his own kind's flesh.
"Das disgustin', mon! Overlord Saurfang is a tausand years old!"
"It has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the action, really. You're right, it is a little strange. But that feeling is long gone and I've moved on from it."
Zekhan stole a glance at Saurfang, he glared at their backs, arms crossed. Apparently he was still salty about their stunt with the hatchlings last week. In front of them, deep in an Alliance tent, Genn Greymane did the same.
It had been like this all week. Genn had asked Anduin how convenient he thought his friendship with the troll shaman was, Anduin just shrugged and said Zekhan made him laugh and that was that.
The meetings between Alliance and Horde to see who would do what in this new war against the Forsaken were sometimes long and tiring and Anduin always looked drained after. Zekhan sometimes wondered if emotional and mental fatigue could be healed with his magic but Anduin always refused to try, claiming he just needed to sleep it off and all would be well in the morning.
Tonight wasn't much different.
However, tonight Anduin came back to their little fire with company.
Usually Anduin came alone and sat next to Zekhan and complained bitterly that these people were getting nowhere and that they'd sooner kill each other than do any damage to Sylvanas. Thrall and Jaina were probably the only ones who were reasonable and Greymane tried (and failed) to be reasonable as well, but there was always someone who wasn't in agreement with plans.
Then he and Mastani the Draenei, along with Turante Leafstar the night elf and Rui'An, a young pandaren, sat by the fire with the king and either ate the remnants of the scorpid soup or drank some foul tasting alcohol until they became too sleepy to do anything else.
Tonight, a tall, gray skinned troll held on to Anduin's arm, another female troll walked behind her. They spoke in pleasant tones, as if they had just met and Anduin was showing her around. Zekhan, Mastani, Turante and Rui'An looked at the pair in wonder, as Anduin came closer with the troll lady. Rui'An paled visibly.
"A Zandalari troll..." He whispered. Turante held his furry arm and pulled him close. Zekhan and Mastani looked on, curiously.
When Anduin was close to their little fire, he let go of the female troll's arm.
"We're here, Queen Talanji." He said, and Zekhan frowned a little as Anduin introduced her to everyone. "The queen arrived today, she's very unhappy with Sylvanas as well."
"Aren't we all?" Turante commented. Mastani giggled slightly.
"'Tis an honor to meet all of you. King Anduin said you're all great warriors." Talanji smiled, the lady troll behind her stayed a distance away, no doubt a lady in waiting. "He praises you all very much."
Mastani stood and offered her hand to the queen, so did Turante. Rui'An preferred to wave from his spot.
Zekhan was rooted to his spot, staring at the queen with wide eyes. She was pretty up close, with eyes like the ocean, soft looking skin and plump lips.
"You're staring, Zekhan." Mastani whispered at the troll. He stood like he'd been sitting on an anthill and took the queen's hand, pressing it to his brow.
"'Tis an honor ta meet such a beauty." He said. Anduin bit his lip, trying not to laugh at his friend's flushed face. Talanji seemed surprised with this development, then laughed lightly.
"A gentlemon, I see!" She said, taking her hand away, Zekhan offered her his spot and even his drink.
Mastani, Turante and Rui'An looked at Anduin and he looked back, they all had identical smiles.
Then Dorn Wolfheart appeared in Anduin's line of vision and his smile vanished. The orc was carrying barrels for some dwarf. Gunpowder, most definitely. His arms flexed as he carried one over his shoulder and the other under one arm. For a hot minute, Anduin wondered what it would be like to be held over the orc's shoulder like that barrel.
"Anduin?" Mastani asked gently.
"I think my bisexuality just took a hard gay turn..."
Talanji spat some of her drink on the fire and looked at Anduin like he had just revealed he had decided to stop being a king to open a pottery shop in Orgrimmar. Rui'An barked a laugh.
"What's he lookin' at?" Talanji asked Zekhan, and he discreetly pointed at Dorn's retreating form. Talanji made an approving noise. "Dose are nice arms, but what's his face like?"
"With arms like that who cares what his face looks like?" Turante commented.
"He could punch me in the face and I'd say thank you." Rui'An added, Turante and Mastani gave the young pandaren a look and he shrugged. "What? Just because I don't eat meat doesn't mean I can't admire a nice steak!"
"His face is also nice to look at." Anduin said absently, still trying to look at the retreating orc from behind some tents. Zekhan rolled his eyes.
"If ya like dat kind of ting, I guess." The troll shrugged, Talanji made a face.
"I've yet to see an orc dat I considered handsome to look at." She said.
"I heard some Horde champions say he was pretty like a female." Mastani said. "If female orcs look like than then sign me up."
"I 'adn't seen him before dis battle." Zekhan commented, taking another drink since he'd offered his to the Zandalari queen. "None knows 'ere dat one came from. 'Is last name is Wolfhart, never heard'a it before."
"Wolfheart?" Mastani frowned, seeming to remember something. "I know who he is!"
The rest of the group turned to Mastani, the young draenei blushed slightly at the attention.
"Out wid it, mon!" Zekhan prompted.
"Well... There was an exarch where I live with the last name Wolfheart."
"Wait, wait, aren't exarchs supposed to be only draenei." Anduin frowned.
"Yes but he was welcomed, focus, Anduin! Exarch Wolfheart was around when my dad was young, he left one day and a few years later he came back with a mate and a child. He used to say he came back because his brother was doing some things he felt ashamed of but..."
"But what?" Talanji prompted.
"He didn't become exarch Wolfheart until he came back, before that he had a different name. Said he'd changed it because it brought him shame."
At this, Mastani seemed to hesitate, Turante made a hand gesture, prompting the draenei girl to go on.
"His name was... Exarch Hellscream..."
Anduin paled. He felt like he'd been hit in the head with something painful and then a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped on him. Hellscream. The name still sent shivers down his spine. Despite the fact he'd forgiven Garrosh Hellscream for all the things the orc did to him (not for Garrosh but for himself, for his own peace) sometimes he still had nightmares about him. Sometimes he dreamed he was happy and content and somehow Garrosh, still alive, found him and tormented him. Now here was someone related to Garrosh walking around all normal. Did Thrall know this? Did Jaina? That someone of Garrosh's bloodline was here?
He felt hands on his shoulders and he snapped out of his thoughts, Zekhan was on one side, taking his hand, and Mastani on the other. He'd been hyperventilating. Queen Talanji was knelt in front of him and wiped a tear from his cheek.
"Ya okay, mon?" Zekhan squeezed his hand gently, Anduin nodded and offered his friend a watery smile. "Ya got me worried! What was dat?"
Everyone was around him, he looked at Genn's tent and the man was outside, holding a scroll in his hand and looking like he'd sprint to his aid at any moment. Saurfang was slowly unfolding his arms and sparing glances at Greymane. Jaina, who had been speaking to Aggra while rearranging little Durak's hair, also looked worried.
"I... I don't feel so good, I--I think I will go to sleep..."
Anduin stood from the log where he sat, but he felt his legs give like they were made of jelly. Zekhan and Mastani took his hands and stopped him from falling again. Soon, Genn was striding to where Anduin was, and he felt faint.
His friends' faces were the last thing he saw before blacking out.
The plot (if there ever was one) thickens