“These harpoon guns are for the Mantid, and more recently the Thunder King. We are running low on supplies after the Swarm and Lei Shen’s arrival -”
“The Swarm’s over, and Lei Shen is dead. We will pay whatever cost for the guns.”
Wrathion watched the Shado-pan marksman and Varian negotiate as he leaned against the Wall to his back. He had been surprisingly quiet for the past hour as they had flown up the Wall and had met with the Shado-pan atop it, who were already roused from the booming commotion of Sabellian and Alexstrasza’s brief scuffle; Varian had given him scalding looks whenever the dragon had opened his mouth, and so the Black Prince, irritated, had bowed out and glared from the side in silence.
“So you’re the son of Deathwing?”
Wrathion glanced over. One of the gryphon riders – one of the three who had been so quick to raise his rifle – had come up next to the dragon without the Prince realizing it. It was a night elf ranger who wore the blue and gold regalia of the Alliance, with his purple hair strapped in a long ponytail behind him.
The Black Prince squinted up at the elf, raised a brow, then looked back at Varian and the Shado-pan. “Yes,” Wrathion said automatically. He frowned. Maybe he wasn’t, anymore.
He shrugged it off. It hardly mattered; no one would know the truth about his true, mixed parentage, anyway. He could say Deathwing was his father as he had and no one would know the casual lie behind it.
“My relatives were killed in the floods that took Darkshore,” the elf said. “At the beginning of the Cataclysm.”
Wrathion resisted the urge to roll his eyes. What, was the elf going to somehow blame him for the Cataclysm like most often did?
“Unfortunate,” the Black Prince said, off-handedly. He did not look at the elf, but instead continued to stare at Varian and the Shado-pan. Much to his annoyance, he’d missed what the Shado-pan’s answer had been to Varian’s offer of payment because of the night elf, judging by how the red-furred pandaren glanced over her shoulder and beckoned over one of her comrades who stood further behind her, manning the Wall.
The elf’s mouth opened again; Wrathion shot up a hand and, palm flat in the air, fingers splayed, silenced the ranger with the snap of movement.
“I am trying to listen to your King,” Wrathion said with annoyance. “You may complain to me about my Father’s doings later if my brother does not burn you alive in the coming hours. And -” he glanced at the night elf and smiled without kindness. “ - I am sure I have heard the same complaint from other… adventurers like yourself. Your’s will no doubt be any different.” He looked back at the King and dropped his hand, ignoring the insulted grumble from the night elf. Luckily the ranger moved away, and Wrathion allowed himself to relax with a huff.
“I understand your struggle, King Wrynn, but understand there is still much to do even after the Thunder King’s death. A single gun can sway the tide.” This was the new pandaren who the red had asked over, a thick-set warrior who hoisted a polearm and sported a scar that ran in an ugly zig-zag down his face.
Varian sighed loud enough for Wrathion to hear the frustration shake in his exhale. Wrathion tapped his hand against the Wall’s side, and locked and relocked his jaw. He glanced out over the opposite Wall, looking out over the Dread Wastes. Not even one Mantid tried to fly over; it was barren and quiet and still on the other bleak, blue-black side.
Taran Zhu is being stingy, Wrathion thought sourly, as he looked back over at the small group. He tapped his fingers again. Trust that old pandaren to keep up his well-deserved distrust of both Horde and the Alliance, a distrust that had apparently leaked to the two commanders speaking to Varian.
The Shado-pan could easily afford to lease at least two harpoon guns with this slack level of activity, Wrathion knew. Perhaps Varian did, too.
They just needed to make the pandaren give it up.
“My son’s life might depend on those damn guns,” Varian said, bristling, shoulders set. “Name a price and I’ll pay it, and you can build more harpoons with the funds!”
Wrathion scanned the crowd of Shado-pan. Yes, he thought, Anduin’s life might just depend on the harpoons – and the chains Left was bringing, of course.
He shifted uncomfortably. And he might also be able to kill or bring down Sabellian. That was the main thing, he tried to tell himself, though the strange curl of sour, dull worry in his stomach refused to go away, suggesting it was not the ‘main thing,’ much to his annoyance.
Wrathion’s eyes caught on one of the Shado-pan in the crowd. He squinted –… then grinned widely as the recognition clicked. Even though the lower part of the pandaren’s furred face was hidden by the thick red and black mask of the faction, Wrathion remembered, there at the Thunder King’s forge, the pandaren’s dark, near-red eyes glancing back at him as they pushed back the Mogu from the Black Prince’s work.
Wrathion’s grinned widened. Oh, an ally. This might be influential to Varian’s argument.
The dragon straightened from his lean and, casually, sauntered over to the group of Shado-pan, careful to keep to the side of the agitated King and Shado-pan lieutenants. No doubt Varian would send him a scowl if he saw Wrathion dare move, the travesty of it.
Wrathion kept his wide grin as he slid up to stand at the side of the pandaren. The warrior’s red eyes flickered over to him.
“Hello, Black Prince,” the Shado-pan murmured first. Wrathion’s grin turned sly; good. The pandaren remembered him. Wrathion nodded, but kept his eyes on Varian in order to look inconspicuous to the King.
“Greetings,” Wrathion murmured back. He watched as the two Shado-pan lieutenants up ahead began to turn to one another and speak in low, harsh voices. “I don’t suppose you can share why your dear commanders are so intent on keeping their harpoons, hm?”
The pandaren didn’t answer for a moment. One of his comrades glanced back at them, squinted, then looked back at the officers.
“The Thunder King took a heavy toll on our resources.” He nodded his head to the Dread Wastes to their left. “We’re wary of the Mantid’s rise again. The next Empress has been elevated and even then, we still aim to push out the last scatters of resistance at the Isle of Thunder. Taran Zhu will not like guns we need going to Alliance.”
Wrathion rolled his eyes. “Please. You have worse to worry about than the annoyance of Taran Zhu’s.” He nodded to Varian. “Like the Alliance king right in front of you.”
“Mm.” The red cloth at the pandaren’s mask flickered with a new wind coming forth from the east; Wrathion wrinkled his nose at the acrid smell of smoke that it drew with it. “I suppose.”
Wrathion took a deep breath; his impatience, which had lessened upon getting to the Wall, was starting to bubble up again.
“Do you know who the king’s son is?” The Black Prince whispered, his voice hoarse with the impatience he felt. “Anduin Wrynn, the priest who destroyed the Divine Bell before you Shado-pan even knew where it was. Your Taran Zhu and certainly the rest of you owe him a debt for doing what you should have accomplished with that Sha-infested artifact and saving him from a very grim fate of being crushed beneath the rubble.”
Wrathion stopped himself. His voice had gotten bitter near the end.
The pandaren glanced at him; his serious eyes softened a fraction.
“I know who Anduin Wrynn is,” the Shado-pan murmured. “We all do.”
The Black Prince stared the warrior down – or, well, up, considering the pandaren was taller than he was. The pandaren sighed, readjusted the crossbow at his back, and nodded.
“I will speak to the commanders. A moment.”
The Shado-pan disengaged himself from the ranks and made his way to the two pandaren who were still arguing in hushed voices to one another. Wrathion watched, pleased with himself; he rubbed at his still-aching shoulders from catching Anduin as the red-eyed pandaren interrupted.
They spoke low; the Black Prince could not hear them. He made his way up to where he had been leaning before and, feeling confident, fixed the king, who watched the three Shado-pan speak with crossed arms and a scowl, with a smug smile. Varian did not see him.
After a long, quiet moment, the only sounds the flapping of the red flags that flittered high above them and the gentle whisper of the warmer eastern wind, the lieutenants began to nod to each other; they had come to an understanding, it seemed. The red-eyed pandaren bowed low to them, straightened, and set Wrathion with a look. The Black Prince nodded back, and the warrior once again took his place in the ranks.
“Very well. We will give you the harpoon guns of your choosing,” the female pandaren said, the one Varian had spoken to first. The king relaxed, but only just; Wrathion, meanwhile, smirked widely. “For your son.”
“How much -”
The pandaren shook her head. “No. No payment. We will explain to Taran Zhu if he asks who the harpoon guns were needed to save.”
Varian nodded. The remaining stiffness of his pose dispersed in the slouching of his shoulders and the uncurling of his crossed arms. “You have my thanks.”
The pandaren nodded back. “We will help ready them for you. For a dragon of the size you described, I would advise at least three harpoon guns.”
“We’ll wait on that for now,” Wrathion spoke up. Varian shot him a glare.
“What?” The king snapped, and took a deep breath. Wrathion watched, vaguely amused, as Varian tried to rein in his temper. “Just an hour ago you were mewling at me to ‘hurry up,’ and now you want to wait?”
Wrathion smiled at him. “Have you seen the size of the harpoon guns, King Varian?” He gestured with his hand to the singular machine-of-war that sat positioned far to their right near the next tower. It was taller than the Black Prince in height, and its red, black, and golden paint shined dimly in the starry darkness. Its sculpted cloud serpent head stretched out into the notches against the border of the Wall, a golden harpoon shoved into its open gullet. By all accounts, it was large, expensive, and heavy; carrying three, even with the amount of gryphon riders they had, would be a burden.
“They will be difficult to carry very far. We are in the Dread Wastes now; what if the Blacktalons I sent find my dear brother in Townlong or even in Kun-lai in the north, hm?” Wrathion’s smile brightened a little too smugly; he was getting back at the king for treating him like something less than what he was. “Do you really wish to burden your soldiers with such an unneeded weight?” Wrathion nodded his head to the Alliance to the right, who nearly mirrored the Shado-pan on the opposite side with their stiff standing of ranks.
Varian scowled at him. Wrathion kept his smile.
The king glanced at the pandaren. “The guns are positioned along the entirety of the Wall?”
Wrathion piped up again. “Would not going to the nearest section of the Wall where Sabe- ?”
“Stop speaking.” Varian shot him another glare. Wrathion’s smile curdled. “Fine. We’ll wait for your Agents.” He turned, nodded to the pandaren lieutenants, and tromped over, metal boots clanking, to the Black Prince; Wrathion stopped himself from leaning back as the king approached.
“And we’ll wait for these ‘chains’ you’re so intent on having,” Varian added in a lowered, gruff voice. Wrathion’s smile was gone, replaced with a bored look as he fixed his eyes on the king.
“The chains are necessary,” the Black Prince said with a sigh. “The harpoons themselves might just bring my brother down, but the chains will promise they will.”
“Simple chains can be broken by a dragon’s strength.”
“It’s a good thing these are not ‘simple chains,’ then, King Wrynn,” Wrathion replied. “Titan technology performs admirably.”
“We’ll see,” Varian grumbled, before turning and walking to his waiting soldiers.
Wrathion eyed him, rolled his eyes, then looked out over the Wall. The kypari trees were hazy in the distance. He scanned the scrubby ground. The Blacktalons he’d sent to scout when he’d arrived on the Wall should hopefully be reporting back soon; he’d told them to hurry it up.
And, hopefully, Left would be contacting him shortly, as well.
Wrathion glanced up at the stars. They were dimming, winking out as the night slowly began to give way to the dawn once again, though the dawn was not yet for some hours.
Unable to do anything else, the Black Prince ground his teeth and waited.
Anduin Wrynn was not very happy.
He watched, quietly, as Sabellian peered down the large pointed archway set deep into the enormous tree that towered above them. The archway’s architecture was amber in color and glossy in texture; Anduin squinted up at it. It was mantid architecture, the prince knew. He frowned. He had never seen a mantid, and if he was honest with himself, he was not sure if he wanted to.
Anduin sighed and leaned his forehead against the black, smooth-scaled paw that held him, closing his eyes. He wasn’t happy, his leg hurt fiercely from the fall, and he was unequivocally exhausted – and he could truly do nothing to make Sabellian let him go. He’d tried everything for the past two hours as they’d tromped along the Dread Wastes and then Townlong, but no amount of calm words, or angry words, or trying to wriggle out of the dragon’s grasp had come to any fruition.
“This will do,” Sabellian murmured. Anduin looked up, squinting, his bangs stuck to his forehead. Sabellian arched his neck back and his large head came out from the hallway. The dragon snorted. “I suppose hiding underneath a tree is better than attempting to hide in this flat land.”
“This is mantid territory,” Anduin said, quickly. He had hoped Sabellian would have been forced to fight or hide out in the open where Wrathion and he could be on equal ground – but the dragon had stumbled upon this hideaway, and the prince knew that being deeper into the ground in a lair of his own would not bode well for a full out assault on Anduin’s rescuers; with the the bottle-neck of the hallway, Sabellian could easily pick off anyone who tried to come inside without causing harm to himself. “They’ll try to kill you for trespassing.”
“It’s a good thing I am smart enough to smell for enemies, then, young prince,” Sabellian retorted. “There are no bugs in this tree.”
Anduin withheld a sigh. Well, he’d tried.
Sabellian tilted the paw that held Anduin. The prince was confused at to what he was doing before realizing the dragon was tilting him so his right leg was aimed at the ground.
Before he could even muster up a levitation spell, Sabellian dropped him; it was not a high drop, but it felt like it when Anduin’s already aching leg hit first against the ground in a bursting of agony. A guttural yelp escaped him, the sound ringing in his ears, and his vision dotted with a hazy white; he lurched forward and fell on his side, too shocked to do anything.
A hand grabbed him from the back of his collar and hauled him up; Anduin was limp. He scrunched his eyes closed and swallowed, trying to will the pain, that had shot up to his entire right side, away, though the white dots appeared even in the darkness of his mind’s eye; his thoughts muddled, threatening fainting.
“Apologies. I did not want you to try to run when I shifted as you did before,” Sablemane said. Anduin managed to open one tearing-up eye to glare at the dragon, who held him up like a caught hare.
Sablemane didn’t look at him as he made his way into the archway and down the stairs that stretched underneath the roots of the tree. The same amber color enveloped them, and, strangely enough, cast warm light, as if energy shined from within the substance itself. The stairs continued downward at a harsh decline; Anduin could only just make out the bottom as his pain began to slowly ebb away.
Sablemane’s footfalls echoed. Anduin glanced over the dragon; his wounds had stopped bleeding an hour before, but still looked vicious, the gashes tearing up and down across his dark skin, where they peeked out amongst the red and orange robe. His left hand, the one that did not hold Anduin, was limp at his side.
Briefly, Anduin wondered about the dragon’s wing injury. What happened to it when Sablemane shifted? Did the pain disappear? Did it seep into his back? The prince filed that thought about to ask Wrathion, later – if there was a ‘later,’ of course.
They got to the bottom. Ahead of them was a circular room, spacious enough to hold Sabellian’s dragon form, tiled with long, curved flat slabs of tan-orange rock. In the center was a shallow pool of amber liquid, encircled by a small, upraised border. Four archways, like the one outside of the tree, were around the curved outer walls, leading deeper underground. Above were the roots of the tree, intertwined and enormous in size, twice as thick as Anduin’s entire body, and a singular orb of the amber that had made this architecture was held in the roots’ clasp, beautiful and glowing.
Anduin frowned. Despite its alien beauty, there was a faint, strange feeling here, like a prickle on the back of his neck. It made him feel uneasy; the feeling was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it because of its faintness -
“Perfect,” Sablemane said. He let Anduin go; the prince stumbled once before righting himself. His leg hurt so badly he couldn’t put any amount of weight on it, and like a lame horse he bent his leg at the knee and leaned hard on his left, trying hard not to go off balance and fall on his face. He wished he had his cane; it was at Lion’s Landing.
The prince looked at Sablemane, surprised when the dragon didn’t grab him again. “You’re not going to -?”
“Tie you up? No. The leg of yours is all the handicap I need to stop you from escaping.” He nodded his head to the stairs. “And you cannot run up those easily, I’m afraid.”
Anduin ground his teeth.
With a quick movement he snapped his arm up and the Light began to bloom harshly in center of his palm; if he could hit the dragon with Holy Fire again, he could -
Before the prince had time to dodge, Sablemane snatched Anduin’s wrist and yanked him closer; his strong grip began to twist against Anduin’s hand, pain building as the prince’s bones were strained, and Anduin bit his lip to stop himself from crying out -
Sablemane stopped right when the bones were near to breaking. Anduin swallowed hard; his whole arm shook. The sudden constant pain in his wrist rivaled the pain in his leg.
“Do not try that again,” the dragon warned. “I do not want you to end up like your dragon.”
He let go. The pain dispersed. Anduin snatched his hand back.
Sablemane stepped away. He shifted into his dragon form and laid out in front of the entrance; he took up half of the room. Anduin ducked and nearly fell back into the pool behind him when one of the dragon’s wings stretched out, narrowly missing him.
Sullen, Anduin watched him. At least he wasn’t bound up, he thought. Unable to stretch without going off balance, he sat down carefully; the floor was strangely warm -… or perhaps that was just the heat coming off of Sabellian’s hulking form.
The prince watched as the dragon looked over the scabbing wounds along the black scales and drew flame on some of them. The room began to grow uncomfortably hot. Anduin wiped his forehead against his sleeve, mumbled wordlessly, then crossed his arms, bringing his left leg up to bend so he could rest his arms and chin on it, his back arched forward.
This was a bit… odd, and not quite what Anduin had expected – though his experience with being kidnapped by dragons was limited to Onyxia, and she had tried to feed him to her children. He’d expected some other sort of direness here in this makeshift lair, but Sabellian was ignoring him, sprawled out like a dozing lion.
… Though Sabellian nearly breaking his wrist just moments before showed there was no less amount of danger here – it was just dependent on how obedient Anduin was with his captor.
“You’re going to kill him,” Anduin spoke up, after Sabellian had stopped blowing fire across his wounds and had laid his head down against his uninjured paw, “Aren’t you?”
The dragon glanced at him. “Yes.”
“Even if he helps you.”
“Of course.” Sabellian’s good wing shuffled. “What kind of father would I be if I did not kill what aimed to murder my children?”
Anduin looked down. He had no argument for that – though he wished he did.
“Maybe if you got to know him -”
Sabellian laughed, a deep rumble in his chest; the prince could feel it vibrate beneath his feet. Anduin glanced up again.
“Are you truly suggesting some sort of ‘brotherly bonding?’ Perhaps the heat is getting to you, Anduin Wrynn. There. Splash in the pool behind you. Do not human hatchlings like yourself enjoy swimming?”
“I’m not a hatchling.”
“You are small enough to be one.”
Anduin sighed, aggravated. “Nevermind,” he mumbled. He busied himself with healing the pain from his leg and wrist; the Light blossomed from his chest and into his palm, smooth and comforting, and he relaxed, closing his eyes and continuing to lean his head on his pulled-up knee as he worked his glowing fingers into his aching thigh, then to his wrist.
“You are a well-behaved hostage,” Sabellian said after a while. Anduin opened his eyes. “Better than Wrathion – though, granted, you have tried to burn my eyes with Holy Fire, but that was easily avoided.”
“Wrathion may not come for me.” Anduin frowned after he said it; he was torn. He wanted Wrathion to come find him, but -… then Wrathion would be in danger, and Anduin didn’t want that, either. He wasn’t sure what to feel.
Sabellian snorted. “Unlikely. However,” he breathed a heavy sigh, and Anduin squinted as the warm air from the dragon’s nose pushed at his bangs, “If he continues his selfish streak, I will find another way to lure him.”
They both went quiet after that. Anduin tilted his head on his crossed arms against his knee, his sleeve cool against his cheek, and looked up at the stairway that Sabellian half-concealed. He tried to ignore the strange energy he felt at the back of his neck; it was faint enough to, at least, but still uncomfortable.
He hated feeling this helpless. Anduin took a deep breath. He had felt the first grasps of independence when wrecked upon Pandaria, had come into it when exploring this wild continent alone and meeting its people, its gods, no longer bound in the Keep of Stormwind and his father’s watchful eye – and had lost it when the Bell had crushed him, and his injuries forced him inside white walls so like the Keep of Stormwind’s, and once again under the orders of his father.
Being able to walk again, even with the cane, had been a blessing, another taste of doing things on his own. But his leg was still holding him back – and now he could do little about the large dragon sitting in front of him, and was, as he had been seven years ago when kidnapped by Onyxia, waiting on someone to rescue him.
It frustrated him. He was no longer a child, but he felt like one, now. He should be saving himself!
He shook his head and scrunched his eyes closed. No. He had to try to relax and think about this realistically. Sabellian was Deathwing’s son, his last son; Anduin doubted Varian himself would be able to escape the situation the prince found himself now. That made him feel a bit better.
But not quite. Anduin opened his eyes once again and, unable to do little else, glumly watched the stairway, waiting.
Though the night sky was becoming lighter, with dawn nearing against the horizon, Wrathion and Varian’s mood were becoming much darker.
Wrathion, hand on his hip, glared out at the Dread Wastes. The Alliance milled about behind him; they were in the same section of the Wall they had been at an hour ago –… all waiting for the Black Prince’s Blacktalons to report.
The dragon took a deep breath, ignoring the ache in his healing ribs. What was taking them so long? He raised his hand and rubbed at his eyes before sliding his palm down the lower half of his face, grumbling.
Wrathion had felt immensely proud of himself when boasting to Varian about waiting -… but not anymore. His glare darkened out at the Dread Wastes. The edge of the horizon, just visible, was dark blue. The stars were mostly gone. The smell of smoke from the doused fires at the Valley was still heavy around them.
At least it wasn’t cold up here, Wrathion thought.
“Any word?” Varian said with a grumble of his own from behind him. Wrathion glanced back, eyes hooded, before looking out at the Dread Wastes again.
“No,” he replied, voice flat.
They said nothing after that; there was no need to, though Wrathion could feel the irritation coming off of Varian behind him.
Like Anduin in the cave, Wrathion thought, almost smiling but stopping himself. He scanned the plains to distract himself.
Minutes clocked by. The gryphons were restless, especially Varian’s beast, who continually snapped at its other kin with growing aggravation – just like its rider to the Alliance soldiers and champions. The assorted group of Alliance murmured quietly to themselves as Varian paced back and forth; his metal boots clanging against the rough stone was just about the only sound up on the Wall.
“I’m sending my own riders,” Varian announced after a while of his own silence. His pacing stopped. Wrathion rolled his eyes and, composing himself with a mask of calm over his face, turned around to face the king. He leaned back against the Wall behind him. “This is taking far too long for my liking. Anduin -”
“Don’t act too rashly, King Varian,” Wrathion said, smiling just slightly, a mere upturn at the edge of his lips, “Don’t you recall that ‘dragons can fly?’ You said so yourself.”
Varian bristled. Before the king could respond, Wrathion continued.
“Flying beasts like your gryphons will attract much more attention than my rogues,” Wrathion said. He paused in mock thoughfulness. “Didn’t Chi-ji teach you something about patience?”
Varian growled. Wrathion’s confidence and smile evaporated as the king grabbed him by the tabard and hauled him up to eye level, his feet dangling, and shoved his face only inches away from the king’s.
“I should remind you that you agreed to follow my orders,” Varian rumbled. “I’ve learned patience. It’s been keeping me from pushing you off of the Wall.”
“I can fly back up the Wall,” was the first thing that came out of Wrathion’s mouth. He regretted it. Varian scowled.
“I can easily arrange that.”
A bright red flash flickered at the edge of Wrathion’s eyes. He grinned wide – it disarmed Varian, whose brows scrunched together with some confusion over the reaction.
“A moment, King Varian!” Wrathion said, then closed his eyes and honed in on the gem that had contacted him. It did not take very long.
Well, what is it? Where are they?
In Townlong, my Prince, replied a gruff voice. Sabellian’s tracks lead to one of the Matid’s abandoned fortresses. Sik’vess. We dared get no closer.
Wrathion grinned – then hesitated. Is that not the same kypari tree the Sha of Hate was defeated in?
It is the same.
A twisting of unease prickled at his gut. He wanted no more dealings with the Sha for a very, very long time -… but the Sha of Hate had been defeated.
But so had the Sha of Despair by Anduin himself, and it had been the one to take Wrathion.
Very well, Wrathion replied after a moment. He could not afford to hesitate any longer. How far?
From your position, my Prince, two hours walk along the Wall, or an hour by flight.
A bit too far for Wrathion’s liking, but it would have to do. Good. We shall meet you there.
He cut off transmission and opened his eyes; Varian and the rest of the Alliance and Shado-pan that had remained were staring at him oddly.
Wrathion smiled brightly, ignoring the looks. “Your son is in Townlong.”
Varian let go of him and turned, without a word, his eyes stiff.
“On your mounts!” The king barked to the Alliance, and the riders complied. The gryphons chortled and bounced, ready to finally move, the sound of their claws scraping against the stone and the leather-and-metal reins clinking loud in the sudden flurry of activity.
“We’ve sent a missive to the other Shado-pan along the Wall,” the pandaren lieutenant said; she stood off to the side, watching. “They will give you their supply of harpoon guns without question, wherever you may land.”
Varian nodded to her. “As I said, you have my thanks.”
The pandaren bowed. The king looked away from her and started towards his restless gryphon.
“Are you just going to stand there, dragon?” Varian said gruffly as he mounted up. Wrathion huffed, shifted into whelp form and, like he had before, clutched onto the back of the beast’s flank. This time, however, the gryphon noticed him and hissed; it snapped its neck back and clacked its beak, and largely missed him. Wrathion hunched down and growled, the fins on the back of his neck lowering.
Varian chuckled under his breath and reined in the gryphon. Wrathion glared at him.
Once the entirety of the Alliance were mounted, Varian turned the gryphon, and they made their way off of the Wall, flying across its side up north to Townlong.
Alexstrasza perched on the highest mountain that bordered the Valley of the Four Winds and the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.
The golden Vale stretched in front of her, glowing with an inward beauty. To her far right were three large, elaborate metal structures of yellows and reds, and right below her was a heightened, shimmering pool whose waters fell into a gentle waterfall to join with an entwining river below. A small village was nestled below the mountains.
The former Aspect glanced over her wounds. They were not dire. The sheared scales were grow again, and the blood would dry and the cuts would heal. She ran a claw over one of the worse gashes along her neck, where Sabellian’s teeth had clamped, and breathed out heavily.
She had acted too rashly, she knew – on all accounts. Alexstrasza stretched out her pink-webbed wings and caught the warm air coming up from the south, mitigating the cold air coming down from the north. The Vale was the perfect temperature – not too hot, but not too cool, and the feeling of Life here was… her other claw gripped against the rock. It was overwhelming, even to her, but in a pleasant way.
The dragon dropped the paw from her neck. She was… troubled. Alexstrasza looked out over the Vale quietly, the jewelry on her horns ringing with the breeze.
She had acted too rashly in going after Sabellian, perhaps, she thought. But the young Alliance prince had moved her, somehow; so she had stayed behind at Lion’s Landing, telling herself that a mere couple of days was not too brash – but then the black dragon had appeared, and, out of some instinct, she had followed.
She sighed. She did not feel guilt for doing so, though something in her was telling her she should have. She was no Dragon Queen any longer; why had she followed? Out of care? Alexstrasza shook her head. Why could she not make sense of it? The answer would have seemed easy when she had been an Aspect; she had done her duty to protect Wrathion, though she had found that perhaps it was not he that she needed to protect, but perhaps his other kin – if what Sabellian said was true, of course.
But this seemed… different. Why?
She was angry at herself. She didn’t know what to do.
Had she acted too boldly in abandoning the Alliance prince? She sighed. Maybe she had. She glanced over at the Wall. But that was not her place any longer – or was it? The former Aspect growled, frustrated. She had been an Aspect for so long she did not know what to do without her title and duty.
Perhaps she should seek out Kalecgos. Was he not here in Pandaria, aiding the Proudmoore woman? Alexstrasza shifted, ignoring the ache in her ankles. No, he had not been Aspect for long, but he had apparently settled into this new world comfortably – unlike herself.
She found herself wondering about the fates of Nozdormu and Ysera. Did they fair as ill as Alexstrasza herself did?
The dragon looked at the Wall again. Kalecgos had sought her help with that artifact – whatever it had been – and she had rudely turned him away. She had been flustered, taken aback by the sudden disintegration of the Accord, despite her calm outward appearance.
Perhaps he could speak with her. The Celestials had guided her as she searched for her new place in this world; maybe a younger dragon could offer advice, and maybe then she could find comfort in her decisions.
She stretched her wings, the air surging about her, and made her way.
They arrived at the section of the Wall nearest to Sik’vess in the next hour.
The Shado-pan manned along the Wall did not seem surprised by the formation of gryphon riders as the Alliance landed along the stone structure; the beasts had been flown hard – Varian had set a quick pace – and sweat gleamed against their leonine hides.
“Hello, King of the Alliance,” called out the largest of the pandaren, a shorter male Shado-pan with an enormous halberd held in one hand. Varian slid off of the mount; Wrathion did, as well, but with decidedly less grace. The flight had not only been fast, but disorienting; he shifted into human form just before he smacked into the ground.
Wrathion wobbled on his feet, cleared his throat, and readjusted his turban and tabard, the scales clinking lightly, and watched Varian approach the pandaren, tempted to walk up with him but resigning himself to staying in the back.
Trying not to cause another argument that would only slow them down was difficult.
Varian nodded, briskly, to the halberd-wielding pandaren. “We’re in need of your harpoon guns.”
The Shado-pan gestured to his right, smiling. “They are ready for your use. There is three available to you, as Mai ordered.” The pandaren glanced back at the gryphons. “You will not be able to fly with them. Too heavy.”
Varian nodded again. His moves were impatient and jerky.
Wrathion looked over at the guns. As the pandaren said, there were three, the same model as the one that had been near the Dread Wastes’ section of the Wall. The cloud serpent heads were all different colors, however: one black, one red, one blue, all snarling and fierce, their gem eyes alight with a sort of mechanical rage.
“We will help ready them. Our scouts will set up our emergency lift to see you safely down the Wall.”
Varian looked back at six gryphon riders he had assigned on the flight over to carry the harpoon guns with their mounts. “Help hook them up.”
Wrathion only watched. He was pleased his plan was coming to fruition. Where would Varian be without his help, he wondered.
The Alliance and Shado-pan were a flurry of movement; chains rustled and clanked, the gryphons squawked and pawed at the stone, and the loud murmuring of the soldiers easing the mounts as the harnesses were hooked on. Against the eastern side of the Wall, the side facing the muted green cliffs and plains of Townlong, other Shado-pan not helping with hooking up the harpoon guns were busying themselves with unloading the lift, hauling the stowed-away contraption from the tower up ahead and tying heavy ropes to its sides to hang it over the Wall. While their movements were quick, their movements were careful, just like the Alliance’s were.
It was strangely mesmerizing. The Alliance and Shado-pan worked together like a well oiled machine; there was little to no bickering between the different races. Wrathion noticed with some interest some of the Alliance champions nodding, as if they knew some of the Shado-pan, to the pandaren that helped them.
Wrathion smirked to himself. Sabellian had no conceivable idea what was about to come after him. Seeing the dragon pummeled and bitten and smashed by Alexstrasza had been nice enough to see, but Wrathion was much more interested in wiping his brother’s smug look off of his face with these harpoons.
The dragon’s eyes flickered over to King Varian. He was helping his officers steady one of the more nervous gryphons, holding the metal harness on the beast’s head still.
Good. The king was distracted. An excellent time to run by another proposal.
Wrathion slid up next to the king, though kept a safe distance; he didn’t want to be grabbed again, even though Varian’s hands were full with the harness. He was quiet for a moment, just watching the soldiers hook the chains up to the gryphon’s saddle, the black harpoon gun behind it, before speaking.
“I have a proposition,” he began. Varian’s jaw locked.
“I’m not surprised,” the king replied.
Wrathion bit back a grumble before continuing. “I would like to keep Sabellian alive.”
Varian glanced over at him without moving his head; his hands were still steady on the gryphon. “What?”
“He could… possibly be of use to me,” Wrathion said. “Killing him can come at a later time, of course. I don’t intend to unleash one of my corrupt brethren against your mighty Alliance,” he added with a small smirk.
“What ‘use’ could he be to you?” Varian asked. The gryphon he was holding bucked up, and without looking away the king pulled the beast back down without so much as a shaking of strain on his shoulders. Wrathion stared, vaguely intimidated, before continuing.
“I’m afraid I can’t share,” the Black Prince sighed. His voice was smooth but smarmy. Varian’s lip threatened to curl. Wrathion didn’t care. “But! You will have your son back. I would say using my plan – which will work – to save dear Anduin is providing of a gift … which would be my brother alive. Don’t you agree?”
Varian took a deep, huffing breath. He turned back to look at the gryphon; the harness was nearly attached. “Fine. As long as my son is safe.”
“I could easily send Sabellian’s head back to you as a show of my good intentions after my work is done. I hear tell you enjoy hanging black dragons’ heads from the arches of Stormwind.”
Varian’s jaw locked and unlocked again; his grip on the gryphon’s harness tightened with a clink.
“Yes. Black dragons who have endangered my son and my kingdom,” Varian responded darkly, his eyes flickering back to Wrathion in a not-so-subtle warning before looking back at the gryphon.
Wrathion decided it was time to back off, with that. He gave the king a wide, toothless smile and moved away again, glancing over the other gryphons as he did so. Two of the harpoon guns were nearly ready to move; all that was left was the lift that the Shado-pan were working on and the last harpoon gun to be hooked up.
Time started to move slower than Wrathion would have liked. He started tapping his foot after a while, deciding to look out over Townlong. He could just make the stretching forms of the other mantid structures inlaid with the kypari trees, but no Sik’vess; that tree was too far west to see. The other kypari trees’ leaves stretched out to the sky, their leaves dark against the sunrise which bloomed the horizon in red and yellows.
Not for the first time the Black Prince’s mind drifted to Anduin. Sabellian wouldn’t dare to hurt him as he had hurt Wrathion in the Kun-lai cave, the dragon assured himself. There was no reason to – was there? His foot stopped tapping and one of his sharp teeth bit down on his bottom lip hard enough to draw blood; he only noticed when he felt it running down his chin and, hurriedly, before anyone saw, he brushed the blood away with his left hand.
A red flash took him out of his unwanted worries. He jumped, surprised; who could – wait.
He snatched onto the gem contacting him, hopeful.
We are a half hour away, my Prince, came Left’s voice. Wrathion grinned. A mere half hour! The lift and the harpoons would be ready within that time.
Excellent timing, Left, Wrathion replied, struggling to keep his enthusiasm in check and failing miserably. How on earth did you manage that so quickly? It had been – what, two and half hours, perhaps more, when Wrathion last spoke to the orc? Though, granted, they were hauling the Chains from the Engine as he had contacted her – the rest of the time must have been spent traveling.
One of the champions you requested has a proto-drake, my Prince. The beast is large and fast enough to carry the Chains.
Wrathion nodded to himself. Hah! He knew the champions would come in handy, as they always did… even though some of them seemed to know his double-sided support of both Horde and Alliance thanks to Sabellian. That soured his mood a bit, but Wrathion was quick to brush that thought aside.
Good! I will see you shortly.
Their connection fizzled. Wrathion made a pleased humming noise in the back of his throat. This was going favorably; it was about time things were going well for him, he noted, and looked over at the harpoon guns and, with some happiness, imagined them gouging into Sabellian’s shoulders.
One of the Alliance soldiers saw the proto-drake coming down from the mountains of Kun-lai first.
The gnome shouted in alarm. The group looked up, nearly as one, as she gestured wildly to the growing blot of dark blue that neared them. The harpoons were ready to move, and the lift was nearly complete.
Wrathion looked up as well, saw the hulking blue form closing in on the Wall, and quickly put up a hand.
“Don’t worry yourselves,” he called out among the murmuring. “It is only an ally of mine.”
Varian glanced at him. “The chains, I hope.”
Wrathion smirked at him. “The chains.”
The proto-drake closed the distance between it and the Wall quickly. It was a monstrously sized creature, its thick, wide scales a varying mix of blues – cerulean, azure, teal – and Wrathion stared at it, eyes wide. He’d never seen a proto-drake before. The beast’s plated head was big enough to tear his head off if it so chose, but Wrathion walked closer anyway as the primordial animal flapped its wings harder, its rider, a Forsaken, reining it in from landing just yet.
“Amazing,” he murmured, mostly to himself, as he looked the creature over. How fascinating – and slightly disorienting - to think his ancestors had been one of these… animals. The air from the proto-drake’s flapping wings pushed against his face.
His attention shifted. In the proto-drake’s clutches were the chains, the tail ends of the large links wrapped around the haunches of the beast. Large leather strips were underneath the coils, protecting the beast from the chain’s ominous buzzing.
“Drop them,” he ordered as he stared at the chains, a sort of hunger in the red of his eyes. The Forsaken glanced at the Alliance. Behind her was Left and another Blacktalon human.
“Disregard the faction behind me. They won’t be harming a neutral party,” Wrathion said impatiently. The Forsaken mumbled something to herself – Left glared at the Horde’s back, leading Wrathion to think the Forskane had said an insult to him, but he was too enthralled with the arrival of the chains to truly care – and tugged back on the reins of the blue dragon. The proto-drake made a deep growl before its large talons uncurled, and the chains, with a strange clanging – not so much a metallic sound, but the sound of like crystals clashing together – fell to the stone floor of the Wall in a looped pile.
“Thank you, champion. I will give you your reward after this ordeal is over,” Wrathion said without looking up. Hadn’t he asked for two champions? Perhaps the other was elsewhere. No matter. It didn’t matter to him. The chains were here and that was all he cared about.
There were two heavy thuds as Left and the other Blacktalon jumped from the proto-drake.
The Forsaken laughed, a dry, airy thing. “Whatever you say, Black Prince. Let’s hope you’re not lying about that like all the rest of the rumors I’ve heard seem to suggest, eh?”
Wrathion glanced up, glaring. “You’re dismissed, thank you.”
The Forsaken gave a drunken-like salute. “Of course, your Princeliness.”
The proto-drake pulled up with a roar. Its feet found purchased on the side of the Wall, and with a great bound it shot back up into the air. The beast and its rider quickly disappeared down the side as quickly as they had come.
Good, Wrathion thought, inwardly scowling at the Forsaken’s words. She’d done what he’d asked and he needed no more of her.
The Black Prince looked back at the chains as Left and the other Blacktalon silently flanked out behind him. The chains were vaguely see-through, and looked as if they were made of light blue glass; each link was so large that they were as long as Wrathion’s waist was tall, if not larger. They buzzed with an audible energy. Wrathion’s fingers twitched. They were perfect.
“That’s all?” Varian said to his side; the Black Prince glanced at him and then again at the chains. “I was expecting something more hardy. Those look like they’ll break at any time.”
“Your worries are uneducated, King Varian,” Wrathion assured. “Titan technology has lasted centuries – eons! They hardly ‘break’ easily.”
The human king made a low, unimpressed noise. His arms were crossed.
“The same sorts of chains were used to hold Yogg’saron,” Wrathion continued, annoyed that Varian wasn’t impressed by his contribution. He tapped the end of his foot against one of the links. The link buzzed violently and he pulled his feet back with a quick, surprise grimace as a bolt of electricity shot up his foot and into his leg, the hairs on the back of his neck and arms rising at the static. He forced the grimace off; that had been a bit too much than he had been expecting to feel.
Varian raised a brow at him. Wrathion cleared his throat. “Well. There,” the Black Prince said. “They can hold Sabellian. Easily.”
“Mm.” Varian turned to look over the long pile of chains – they were at least three yards long in total length. “Alright. But remember that Yogg’saron broke out of the chains and his prison. Let’s hope these don’t do the same thing.”
“Sabellian isn’t an Old God,” Wrathion retorted. “He’s just controlled by them.”
“And how do you suggest my soldiers carry them without being shocked?”
Wrathion gestured to the large sheaths of leather that lay in heaps underneath the pile. “Use the same materials my Agents used,” he said, as if it was obvious. Varian’s eyes sharpened, but otherwise he said nothing.
The king turned. Without so much as a command, the night elf ranger, the one who had spoken to Wrathion, and another dwarven warrior ran up and began to ready the chains for transport.
“We can finally go after my son,” Varian said after a loud sigh. “This plan of yours had better work, dragon.”
“It’ll work,” Wrathion assured. “Trust me.”
Varian shot him a look and went to help his troops with the chains.
Wrathion turned behind him to face Left.
“An easy assignment, I trust,” the Black Prince said, and gave her a toothy grin.
“An easy assignment,” Left repeated with a nod. “The Forsaken was a bad choice. The other champion was fine; they left after helping haul up the chains.”
“So I saw,” Wrathion murmured. He took a deep breath. “Yes, well. Well done.” He gave a quick nod to the other Blacktalon, a male human with shortly cropped brown hair and a boyish face that didn’t quite fit with the foreboding black leather uniform he wore.
Left bowed her head suddenly. Wrathion stared back at her, startled.
“I apologize for not being there to stop Sabellian, my Prince,” the orc said, her voice gruff. “It was my mistake. I should have -”
“Left,” Wrathion said with a small laugh. He put a hand up to stop her from speaking. “It’s quite alright. I sent you away; it was no fault of yours.”
The orc’s head lifted, ponytail swaying. She looked unsure.
“Really,” he added. Left nodded slowly; her tusks tilted back and forth as she ground her teeth, as if she wasn’t sure how else to respond.
There was a loud clanking of wood. Wrathion glanced over his shoulder. The soldiers were carefully hooking up the chains to the harpoons; when the machine-of-war was fired, the harpoon would fly out – and the chains would trail behind it.
“I have a report, my Prince. From Blade’s Edge.”
Wrathion snapped his head back so quickly he pulled a muscle in his neck. He flinched and rubbed his neck with his left hand, but did not stop looking at Left.
“Go on,” he said, excited.
Left, however, did not look enthusiastic – though she hardly ever did, Wrathion thought.
“The ambush did not go as hoped,” the orc started. Her voice was flat, without emotion. “There was more in the brood than the party expected.”
“More in what way?” Wrathion’s voice was low and hoarse, a hiss.
“A scout reported most of them were younger. Hatchlings, young drakes. There were only half a dozen elder drakes.” Her crossbow shifted with a gentle clack of steel. Wrathion hardly heard it. He hardly heard the Alliance behind him. His ears were beginning to ring.
“Only half a dozen,” he repeated, disbelieving. He took a deep breath. The ringing in his ears was becoming louder; a prickling anger picked at the back of his eyes, hot. “And it did not ‘go as hoped.’”
“The rogues managed to poison the Netherwing leader who stood guard. The assault would have gone as planned, quiet, but the single mature dragon was roused and the Blacktalons resigned themselves to a full attack. They were pushed back. Their numbers were cut in half.”
Wrathion stared. He swallowed noisily and took another deep, steadying breath. “And how many dragons did they kill?”
“Left,” Wrathion snapped. One of the Alliance glanced over at him, and the Black Prince lowered his voice. “How many?”
“The Agent to report wasn’t certain. I was told it was chaotic. He thought maybe one had fallen in battle -”
“- And that some might have fallen from their wounds after your Blacktalons retreated.”
One of Wrathion’s eyes twitched. His left hand’s fingers curled and uncurled.
“Half of the Agents I sent were killed,” Wrathion said, slowly, his voice low and calculated, “And they may have killed – may – one of Sabellian’s children. One.”
“Yes, my Prince.”
“I am told the mature dragon was the stand-in leader, my Prince, and the strongest. The Agent reported her elemental strength was surprising.”
“She used the earth.”
“Oh, I can do that!” Wrathion said with a whine. In his sudden tantrum he eyed a small, thumb-sized pebble that had once been part of the Wall, eroded off by the wind and sent it, with his powers, flying. It smacked against one of the Alliance’s metal helmets and the soldier yelped. Wrathion snapped his head back to Left, mouth set in a wide, grim line and his eyes wide and nearly wild. “See?”
“… Yes, my Prince,” Left said. Something about the way she said it made him angrier, but he took another breath and tried, tried to calm himself down. He tugged at his leather sash, rolled and fluffed his shoulders back, and clacked his teeth so hard that it was audible. More of the Alliance, those not helping with loading the chains, had noticed his meltdown and were beginning to watch from the corners of their eyes; they thought he couldn’t see them, but he did. He tried to not let that boost up his frustration again.
“This was not the report I was expecting,” he admitted when he finally had himself under control, though his voice was still strained. Left said nothing.
A loud metallic groan and grind behind him caught his attention. Wrathion glanced back – not missing how the Alliance who had been watching him looked away quickly – and saw that the harpoons, heaved forward by the gryphons, were being loaded into the lift, the chains tied to the machines-of-war.
“We’ll talk about this after,” Wrathion murmured. He shifted into whelp form and hovered, wings beating. “Once Sabellian is taken care of.” And Anduin is safe, he thought to himself.
Wrathion eyed the kypari trees in the distance. His Agents might have not succeeded, but he would against their father. And then he would send champions to Blade’s Edge – yes, perfect! His champions had killed Nalice, and she had been the ambassador to his Flight, fully grown and stronger, no doubt, than this stand-in protector at Blade’s Edge; they could easily kill another like her.
But first came Sabellian. Wrathion watched the lift lower, the first harpoon disappearing beyond the side.
The trek to Sik’vess was easier than Wrathion had initially thought it would be.
The gently sloping plains of Townlong were crisscrossed with worn dirt paths of the Shado-pan and braver merchants who wanted to try to gather previous materials beyond the Wall. While the sun had risen, dark, layered clouds blocked its light and cast a shadow across the land; only bursting streams of the rising sun managed to find an escape from the clouds, shining in an angular arc to touch upon the ground in spotlights like the hands of a god.
Wrathion perched on the top of the black harpoon gun and looked at one of said-streams now, trying to figure out what the Tauren called their sun goddess. An’le? An’sha?
“Unfortunate yer’ no drake, yer Highness,” called the dwarf who sat on one of the gryphons hauling the gun Wrathion sat on. The warrior looked back and grinned, the curly hair wild around her face. “You coulda’ been haulin’ these yerself.”
Wrathion wrinkled his nose. “I don’t think so.”
“No,” the dragon assured, nearly rolling his eyes. “Dragons are not mere pack animals, thank you.”
“Neither is me gryphon here, but ‘guess we do what we must fer the Alliance.” The dwarf shrugged largely and looked away.
Then I am glad I am not part of your Alliance, Wrathion thought sourly, or any other faction but my own. Even Alexstrasza herself abided to laws and regulations despite the Dragonflights breaking apart.
The thought of Alexstrasza made him uneasy. He shook his head and forgot the train of thought, just as the harpoon gun went over a small bump in the dirty road and rattled underneath him; he held on fast to with his claws, wings splaying out for balance so he wouldn’t fall. He relaxed when the gun righted itself again.
“Stop.” The order was from Varian. He was in front, his monstrous gryphon helping to haul the red harpoon gun. He had come to a halt, and the others were quick to follow. The rolling, grinding sound, louder than Wrathion would have liked it to be, of the wheels of the guns went quiet.
Ahead was Sik’vess. Up close, it towered high above them, the leaves thick and dark blueish-green. The bark was smooth, and small cracks inside showed the glow of kyparite, the mantid’s life-source, within. Wrathion could just make out a large amber archway near the bottom of tree.
Wrathion drew himself up, heart jumping into his throat with excitement. Finally!
“Where are the agents of yours, wyrm?” Varian asked, locking him in place with a look. It was then that the three Blacktalons Wrathion had sent ahead to scout, and to find Sabellian and Anduin, appeared from the air off to the side of the worn pathway: a female worgen, a male orc, and a female blood elf.
Wrathion smiled at Varian, large and toothy on his pointed maw. He jumped from the harpoon gun and shifted into human form, landing lithely on his feet, dirt pluming up from underneath him. He straightened himself out.
“Report, if you would,” Wrathion ordered. The female blood elf stepped ahead and saluted; Left and the human Blacktalon flanked Wrathion again as she did so.
“Sabellian has taken over Sik’vess, your Majesty,” the blood elf began, her voice high and singsongy. “While we awaited your arrival, we scouted further and found that the entrance-way leads underneath the kypari tree. It is a small opening, a bottle-neck.” She glanced at the harpoon guns and the soldiers, then at Wrathion. “It prevents a quiet ambush. The harpoon guns will not work. The dragon will need to be drawn out into the open for their use.”
Murmuring began among the ranks. Wrathion bristled, but he saw Varian, out of the corner of his eye, put up a hand for silence, and the troops went quiet.
Wrathion hummed quietly to himself, thoughtful. “Very well.” He gestured his head behind him, and the three Blacktalons took their places behind Left, protecting the Black Prince’s back.
“Let’s get to the archway,” Varian ordered. A cold wind coming from the north blew against Wrathion’s face; he squint his eyes. “The priority is my son’s safety. We’ll bargain if we can’t get through.”
Wrathion laughed once, a quick, loud hah that made Varian look over at him immediately. “Sabellian won’t bargain. We can trick him out.”
Varian leveled him with a look. “We’ll bargain. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try another plan. I will not stoop to your level of playing tricks, dragon. This is the Alliance. We have honor here.”
Wrathion ground his teeth. Honor will only get you so far, he wanted to snap, but instead he chose something else to say – though he saw where Anduin got his naïve ideas from, now. “Of course, King Wrynn,” he murmured, and bowed his head in a mock-bow. “My apologies.”
The rumbling of the harpoon guns began again. They quickly made their way down the small slope that led to the tall archway. Wrathion walked with his Agents and stared at the amber infrastructure like it was some sort of poisonous bug that was about to leap at his face.
This was too delicate a situation, and everyone seemed to know it – including Varian, whose eyes were sharp on Sik’vess like Wrathion’s were. The Black Prince looked around. He knew what Sabellian would want in exchange for Anduin, and he would not let such an exchange happen; he was glad that he had five trained Blacktalons with him, including Left.
But even still, one wrong word on his part, or even on Varian’s part, could cost Anduin some pain, or even, if it came to it, his life. Wrathion shook his head. Perhaps when his son was injured the king would know that something as worthless as honor when dealing with an enemy like Sabellian was worthless. He’d be forced to listen to Wrathion – though the dragon wished he’d stop being as stubborn and just listen to him before Anduin did get hurt. Idiot. He was making this harder than it should have been.
They stopped a yard away from the archway. It went very quiet. The creaking of the harpoons was loud in the silence.
Wrathion took a breath and narrowed his eyes as he caught Sabellian’s scent coming from the opening, a heavy smell of fire and overturned earth. He tried to find Anduin’s scent, but couldn’t. Wrathion swallowed. That didn’t mean anything, he reassured himself. Sabellian’s scent was just overpowering it. Of course.
Varian dismounted. His armor clanked. The other soldiers did the same. The gryphons chortled quietly.
Then, from the archway, red-yellow fire shot forth with a roar. The ends plumed only feet away from the front lines; the gryphons shrieked and reared, and the soldiers tore their heads back to shield their eyes from the overwhelming heat that washed over Wrathion’s face without any harm to him.
The fire dissolved as quickly as it had appeared. Wrathion huffed and rubbed the side of his face. Show-off.
“Greetings,” came Sabellian’s voice from below, resonating slightly off of the amber
hallway. Wrathion leaned forward; the archway lead into a long series of stairs. “I suppose you’ve come for the boy. You took your sweet time in coming to find me.”
“Release my son,” Varian shouted down. “And I’ll think about not killing you.”
There was a long pause – then a loud snorting. “Ah. I seem to have the honor of speaking to the King of Stormwind. Did you enjoy my potions?”
“I’m not in the mood to play games. As I said, release my son.”
“The prince of Stormwind is my bargaining piece. No. I’ll be keeping him, for now.”
Wrathion growled. Sabellian has chosen his position too well. He was hidden from sight, away from the harpoons, and away from harm. Even though the Alliance and Wrathion had brought such artillery, it meant nothing; Sabellian had the upper hand.
And he had Anduin.
“What bargain are you looking for?” Varian asked. There was his own growl to his voice, and a scowl stretched across face.
“My brother, of course. The little one, the Black Prince Wrathion.”
Wrathion locked his jaw. “’The little one?’” He murmured to himself.
Varian glanced at him, then back at the archway. Smoke was drifting up from the stairs and passed the amber gateway.
“Wrathion isn’t here.”
The dragon glanced over at Varian, surprised, scrunching his eyebrows together.
“Of course he is. I can smell him. Hello, little prince.”
“If you think I’m going to just waltz down there and turn myself in, you’re badly mistaken,” Wrathion snapped loudly. Sabellian snorted.
“Your actions are too easy to predict, hatchling,” Sabellian responded. Wrathion huffed. “And what do you say, King Wrynn? This is no decision of Wrathion’s. Will it be the dragon or your son?”
Varian paused. He went still, one hand on the hilt of Shalamayne, the other at his side, hand curled into a fist.
“We can come to other terms,” Varian said, finally.
“Those are my only terms, you blasted king,” Sabellian said, the exasperation and annoyance clear in his voice. “Your son is unharmed now -”
“I can’t see Anduin. How do I know that?”
Sabellian’s grumble echoed against the archway. There was a long moment of silence. Wrathion’s fingers twitched as the minutes trudged by, slow as a mushan’s gait. What was going on down there? He glanced at Varian, who stood still, then back at the archway. This was taking too long. Perhaps he could send his Blacktalons inside to do this himself -
“I’m fine, Father,” Anduin called out suddenly, making Wrathion jump and his irises narrow into their smallest slits. “Don’t -”
“Yes, alright, that’s enough,” Sabellian interrupted. Anduin did not speak again. “Now. I would like to do this the easy way, Varian Wrynn. I am not my sister – thankfully – and I do not desire your death or the boy’s. I will release him quietly as long as my safety is assured and the Black Prince is mine.”
“I am not foolish enough to trust black dragons,” Varian growled.
“The color of my hide means little. Is a black dragon not standing beside you now? Albeit a small one, but the matter remains. Do not be a hypocrite. I loathe hypocrites.”
Sabellian’s voice was angry, and he spoke as if speaking to a child.
“If you are stupid enough to pass on my offer, I will do it another way. Give me the Black Prince or I’ll send your son back in pieces. I’ll start with his hands, first.”
Wrathion drew himself up. He wouldn’t –
“And if you doubt me, I would ask the Black Prince about what I was forced to do to his arm.”
Wrathion scowled. Forced! Hardly.
Varian took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment before opening them. His jaw was set, locked. Wrathion looked at him.
“Your plan of honor is working wonders, King Varian,” Wrathion commented vacantly.
Varian looked at him. His grip on Shalamayne tightened. Wrathion took a quick glance around. All of the Alliance were looking at him.
Suddenly Wrathion felt like the dragon down in the makeshift lair was the least of his worries.
“Now,” Wrathion started, quickly, his voice low so Sabellian couldn’t hear, “we can figure something else out -”
“And risk Anduin’s life?” Varian said; he looked to be struggling with himself. The night elf ranger started raising his rifle. With the small movement, a handful of the other soldiers went to grab their swords.
All at once the Blacktalons behind the Black Prince shot up into action. Left raised her crossbow with a growl at the king, daggers were drawn from their sheathes and swords plucked from belts, metal scraping.
Even in the outdoor space, the tension in the air became heavier, heavier even than when Sabellian had announced himself with his flame. The leaves of Sik’vess shuffled quietly in the cold wind.
Wrathion and Varian stared at one another, their shoulders taut.
“I want no harm to come to Anduin, either,” Wrathion said after a quiet moment, his voice as tense as his body was. He glanced at the soldiers – more had raised their weapons – before looking back at the king again. “But I will not be some prize to be handed over.”
Varian’s jaw worked back and forth as the king ground his teeth. It was silent for a long, full minute. Even the gryphons were quiet, as if they had picked up on their riders’ sudden shift of moods.
The king, finally, nodded slowly to himself, then nodded again, a quick, final thing. Wrathion relaxed, nearly sighing with relief.
“We’ll find something else,” Varian murmured. “Let’s talk. Quickly.”
Anduin was standing in the center of Sik’vess, just beyond the pool of amber, watching Sabellian wait for his father’s response.
Sabellian and he had gotten so bored as the hours had dragged on wordlessly that they had started talking to one another again for the last hour – the status of Stormwind, what Blade’s Edge was like, and even of their mutual hate for Onyxia until Sabellian had stopped suddenly, turned around and blew fire up the stairs and Varian and Wrathion and a handful of Alliance had showed their presence.
The prince glanced up. The dragon was blocking the entry-way with his body, his wings held loose at his sides, his horned head tilted up at the stairway, but not enough, Anduin knew, where anyone outside could see even the ends of his snout. Smoke curled from his nostrils, and while his wings were casual, relaxed, the rest of Sabellian’s body was tense, ready to strike, his claws gripped onto the ground and the frills along his neck raised.
Anduin himself was on pins. He flexed one of his hands.
I’ll send your son back in pieces. I’ll start with his hands, first.
The prince took a steadying breath. He looked up at the entry-way again. Both his father and Wrathion were outside trying to get him out of here – and Sabellian wanted Wrathion in exchange.
Anduin would not allow that to happen, even if it cost him pain… though the prickling at his wrists belayed his nerves. But losing a hand, even both hands, was not the same as Wrathion losing his life.
Sabellian tilted his head back and forth and growled low as the silence stretched on. Anduin could practically hear his own heart beat. He could shield if Sabellian came after him, but he knew that wouldn’t last for long.
“Do not speak,” Sabellian growled. His claws flexed and loosened. The heat was unbearable. Anduin rubbed at his face.
And the remaining Sha energy – it had to be Sha, Anduin concluded - was still there, uncomfortable, bitter -
Another minute passed, and still no word appeared from above.
“His time is up,” Sabellian murmured. With a quick cloud of smoke he shifted into human form. Blood stained against the brilliant red and orange, pinpointing all of his hidden injuries below the cloth. His sprained hand was held loose at his side as he walked to Anduin.
A smiting spell, sparking, flickered into Anduin’s hands. Sablemane growled. The dark skin underneath his eyes was strangely darker, and he moved with a serious, emotionless gait; for a brief moment, the prince wondered if the dead remnants of the Sha energies were beginning to bother him as they were Anduin, too.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Sablemane said, gesturing to the spell. “You are only going to make this that much more difficult for me and for you. Can we not just do this quickly?”
“You don’t have to do this,” Anduin said, and took a step back as Sablemane began to approach again; his heel tapped against the border around the pool. He had nowhere to go. “You can turn me over without Wrathion, and I can promise you your safety. You can go home and forget this. I can speak to Wrathion -”
“Now you sound desperate.” He rolled his eyes. “Your hand, little prince. Give it here.”
The prince shook his head. Sablemane growled again.
Anduin shot off the smiting spell as Sablemane snatched forward. It hit him across the throat and the dragon snarled, teeth baring back to show their sharpened ends, and in that brief, distracted moment Anduin bolted forward, his right leg nearly giving out from underneath him in that first, terrible step – he wished he had his cane! -
Sablemane grabbed him by his tabard and hauled him back with a powerful snap, so hard the cloth tore down the side; it was nearly shorn in two. Anduin struggled and kicked out, but the dragon held him fast and grabbed his hands in one grip by his wrists.
“Let go of me!”
Sablemane hauled him to one of the walls and smashed him against the amber. Anduin grimaced as the hard impact rattled against his spine and made his teeth clack and his vision blur, pain hot and sparking in his back and in his shoulders.
When he came to, Sablemane was looking at Anduin’s hands.
“What are you doing?” The prince croaked.
“Deciding which one,” the dragon replied as casually as if he were deciding what to eat.
Anduin struggled again. Sablemane did not look up, but he smacked the prince back into the wall again without so much as a movement. Anduin bit back a groan. His leg began to seize up, and the other healed injuries he’d sustained during the fall of the Divine Bell, the ones that hardly pained him, began to beat with a ghost pain until his whole body ached. He swallowed hard. No, he couldn’t give in to fear, he told himself. Or pain. He couldn’t yell out or scream, he couldn’t let Wrathion and Varian hear him yell. He couldn’t let Sabellian spur them into action and risk their lives because of Anduin’s pain.
“Don’t do this.” Anduin finally pleaded, his voice hoarse.
Sablemane looked at him. His orange eyes were sunken in, the shadows against his cheekbones dark. The prince looked at him earnestly.
They stared at one another. Anduin swallowed again. Much to his horror, his shoulders began to shake, and he couldn’t make them stop.
Sablemane saw. He hesitated.
Without a word the dragon suddenly let go of Anduin’s wrists and the blood rushed back into them. Anduin gave a small gasp, both in surprise and relief.
“Thank you,” he mumbled, unable to speak any louder.
“Don’t thank me yet,” the dragon said, and grabbed Anduin’s left sleeve and pulled it back to reveal the soft white skin beneath. Sablemane’s hand holding Anduin to the wall fell, but the dragon moved himself quickly, backing his shoulder into the prince’s to pin him back.
There was a gentle shiiiing. Sablemane lifted his hand from the inside of his robe and revealed an ugly dark green dagger, stained at the tip with blood.
Anduin recognized it. “That’s fel iron,” he said, blankly.
Sablemane raised a brow at him. “Your point?”
“I -” Anduin shook his head. “Nothing.”
“Maybe it will burn you at the touch, priest.”
Before Anduin could even try to snatch his arm away, Sablemane placed the sharpened tip of the dagger at the top of Anduin’s arm and slashed down, tearing through the soft flesh of his underarm in a deep arc.
Anduin jerked back at first. His eyes went wide as he stared at the gushing of blood coming out of his arm. Then the pain came – and Anduin screamed.
In his sudden haze of agony – his arm felt like it was on fire, crackling – he kicked out, even with his right, stiffened leg, but Sablemane didn’t move even when Anduin’s feet collided into his gut. The dragon only grunted and lifted the dagger.
Wait – Anduin was screaming. He couldn’t let himself yell out! With effort he forced his mouth, forced his throat, to close with a gurgle. Anduin scrunched his eyes closed and bit hit bottom lip hard as the pain continued to beat in his slashed arm. Hot blood dripped down into his palm, down his pants, onto his leather shoes. He could feel the fel energies burning at his opened flesh; it was a deep wound, a very terrible wound.
“Well done, little prince,” Sablemane said with a sigh, and the weight lifted from Anduin’s shoulder. The prince only slumped down into a clumsy sit, his eyes still closed. He cradled his bleeding left arm close to his chest. “That will be all your father will need, I’m sure.”
Anduin leaned his head on his bent knees and hiccuped. With the pain, he could do little else.
Wrathion jumped when Anduin screamed.
He looked at the archway. His eyes were wide and his throat went dry.
No one did anything for half a heartbeat.
Varian cursed loudly. “I’ll go down there myself if I have to!”
Wrathion still hadn’t looked away from the archway.
I’ll start with his hands, first.
Sabellian wouldn’t -
He came back to the present with a flinch and shook himself out. He shook his head hard. Anger lit deep in the center of his chest.
“I’ll go,” he snapped, then lowered his voice in a quiet anger. Sabellian had crossed an invisible line. “I’ll trade myself.”
Left, to his side, looked alarmed. “My Prince -”
“I won’t actually trade myself, Left,” Wrathion interrupted. He drew his shoulders up and took a breath, composing himself. “I’ll make him think I am.”
Varian glanced over at him sharply. “That’s -”
“Dishonorable? Should I find myself caring more for some stupid fleeting idea about mortality than A– dealing with Sabellian?” Wrathion had nearly slipped and said Anduin.
“It’s a slimy move,” Varian murmured. “Regardless.”
“And that is why I am not part of your Alliance,” Wrathion replied. “You can stand aside and watch me save your son while you sit back and squirm about something as false as honor, King Wrynn.”
Varian sighed in aggravation. Good. Wrathion had hit a nerve.
“Man the harpoons. Wait for the trade. Shoot him – preferably without a killing shot - when its done and I will get Anduin and I out of the way, and we can walk out safely.”
Varian squinted at him. Wrathion looked back at him impatiently, trying not to think about the agony that had been in Anduin’s voice. He was about to tell his Blacktalons to man the damn guns themselves when Varian nodded and looked to the archway.
“We’ll give you the Black Prince,” he called down, voice gruff. “Don’t hurt my son any longer.”
Sabellian didn’t answer immediately.
“I thought that might sway you,” the elder dragon replied. He did not sound very happy. “Send the hatchling down.”
“No. He will meet you halfway.”
Sabellian snorted. “Yes, yes, alright. Halfway.”
Varian looked at Wrathion grimly and nodded.
“I can accompany you in the shadows, My Prince -”
“No, Left. I will do this alone.” He glance at her and smiled smugly. “Don’t you worry.”
The orc nodded, her movements stiff.
While he sounded outwardly confident, the Black Prince’s stomach began to twist as he walked, unaccompanied, to the archway. Behind him the Alliance were quietly beginning to turn the harpoons in the direction of Sik’vess’s opening.
This wasn’t the Kun-lai cave, Wrathion tried to tell himself. He was surrounded by allies. With his plan Sabellian would be defeated and he would have his just vengeance on his elder brother.
With a quick breath Wrathion went inside the hallway and started down the flight of stairs.
Sabellian, in human form, was already at the halfway point. In his grip was Anduin; Wrathion’s stomach soured. Even from the distance Wrathion could see the large gash down the prince’s arm, starting from his elbow and going down his wrist; blood stained the left half of his clothes where the wound had bled down.
Wrathion scowled and glared at Sablemane. The elder dragon simply looked back at him with lidded eyes, unmoving.
“The king chose the smart decision,” Sablemane said when Wrathion got into earshot. Anduin looked at Wrathion with wide eyes; the Black Prince tried not to look at him, in fear of giving away his falseness.
“It was not the king’s decision,” Wrathion retorted. He stopped when he was a yard away from Sablemane. “The only one who makes decisions for me is mysel -”
“Yes, alright, I understand you’re obsessed with your greatness. I don’t care.” Sablemane looked the Black Prince over. “Show me your hands, whelp.”
Wrathion sighed over-exaggeratedly and lifted his left hand up. Sablemane glanced him over again with a suspicious squint.
“I would show you the other, but -” Wrathion wiggled the ends of his right hand that stuck out from his worn cast “- I’m afraid I can’t.”
Sablemane snorted. He glanced behind Wrathion. Anduin shook his head at the Black Prince, silent; Wrathion looked back blankly. He couldn’t let Sablemane catch on.
“Honestly, can we get this over with? Your paranoia is exhausting,” Wrathion sighed. Sablemane glanced back at him with a small scowl and shoved Anduin forward a step. The prince stumbled before catching himself; Sablemane started dragging him the rest of the way, his steps slow, slower for Wrathion’s impatience.
Sablemane stopped when they were only two feet from each other. The elder dragon looked down at Wrathion with open disdain.
Wrathion looked him over and noted the bloodied stains against Sablemane’s robe. He smirked and rose his eyes up to the dragon’s. “I hope those hurt.”
“At least I did not cry when receiving them, little prince - unlike yourself with your own wounds.”
Wrathion twitched. “I did not cry -”
“No? I remember differently.”
Sablemane smiled at him without kindness. Wrathion glared.
“Can you two please - stop,” Anduin croaked. The Black Prince looked at him, glanced at Anduin’s own wound, and curled a lip in slight disgust and worry. It looked particularly nasty up close; the skin against the edges of the deep gash were dark grey, nearly blackened, and blood trickled in a steady stream from it to drip with a gentle plop, plip, plop on the stoned floor. Anduin looked paler than usual. Wrathion bit his lip; he had to hurry up, and the harpoon operators needed to hurry up.
“Ah. Yes. Apologies for harming your -” Sablemane paused, then shook his head, as if he didn’t quite care enough to think about it. “- Whatever he is. But a bit of shed blood builds character.”
“A 'bit'? His entire arm is bleeding.”
Sablemane shrugged. “Be thankful his arm is still there.”
They glared at each other again.
For once Wrathion struggled to find something else to say. Was this it? Were the harpoons in place? He couldn’t look behind his shoulder without giving away the plan; besides, Sablemane was solely focused on him, as Wrathion had hoped.
Sablemane sighed loudly. “I’ve had enough of this farce. Step forward. I’ll release the human when my hand grabs your neck. Do you understand these simple instructions, or shall I repeat them?”
Wrathion scoffed. “I understand fine, thank you.” He gestured with a flick of his hands to Sabellian’s loose, twisted hand. “You’ll only be able to grab one of us, however. Let Anduin go first, and then you may grab me.”
Sablemane stared at him without amusement. “Just come towards me, hatchling.”
Wrathion mumbled, and, carefully took a step forward, but moved his body just slightly to the side.
He was maybe half a foot away – Sablemane’s hand loosened on Anduin’s collar – when the dragon made a cursory glance over Wrathion’s shoulder.
The elder dragon’s eyes fixated.
A low, deep growl started at the back of his throat.
Sablemane had seen the harpoons.
Wrathion did the first thing he thought to do, and then everything seemed to explode.
The Black Prince bound forward and grabbed Anduin by the front of his tabard just as flames gushed up in a roar around Sablemane’s form. He pulled hard and Anduin came back with him, and Wrathion stumbled backwards, back smacking against the other side of the hallway; the flames around Sablemane shot up as he transformed into his dragon form, his back hunched, hardly fitting in the small cavern. Rock and amber fell from the ceiling. The ground shook.
Anduin gasped. The flames billowing off of Sabellian – Wrathion wrapped his good around around the prince’s chest and whirred around, changing places, his back to Sabellian and Anduin to the wall, shielding him from the inferno.
Sabellian roared again and in his anger, did not seem to see the two. Wrathion glanced back as the other dragon hurdled forward, forcing himself through the hallway, the ancient stairs crumbling beneath his weight and the ceiling falling in larger chunks. A loud SHRING pierced the air, and in a flash of blue and silver one of the harpoons shot towards the dragon, but missed; Sabellian screamed forth a billowing of flame and burst through the archway and into the opening.
More of the ceiling started to collapse. Wrathion moved himself from Anduin, grabbed the prince by the front of his tabard again, and started hauling him out, squinting his eyes. Anduin hurried after him; his limp was bad. A quick glance showed that part of Anduin’s back was burned.
“You can move faster than that!” Wrathion teased, though the tension in his voice gave away his small scaled panic. He ducked out of the way as a head-sized boulder of amber slammed right where he had been standing. Anduin glared at him, but the prince soon grimaced and forced himself to move faster.
They made it out of the hallway. Wrathion grinned as he felt the grass beneath his feet.
Anduin, meanwhile, collapsed to his knees. Wrathion went to kneel down but a scream tore his attention, and he turned to see the havoc Sabellian was wreaking across the Alliance and Shado-pan forces.
In the quick moment that Wrathion hauled Anduin from Sik’vess after Sabellian had blown through the archway, the elder dragon had torn a line of fire across the hill, encircling the group to prevent escape unless by gryphon – though that seemed unlikely, for Sabellian was gliding above, fire bursting from his mouth in aimed hits as he tried to destroy the harpoons. His flight was sloppy. The injured wing was obviously in pain.
The marksmen were, in the sudden frenzy, trying to shoot, but the arrows only clanged off of the dragon’s scales and the bullets only made Sabellian twitch as if they were nothing more than a bug’s bite.
“Aim the harpoons, damnit!” Varian yelled above the panic; he’d drawn out Shalamayne. Some of the Alliance bolted over and started taking control of the guns at their king’s command, while others began reeling in the first harpoon to fire and miss from the crumbling archway, the chains buzzing and crackling as they slid against the ground.
Sabellian arced down and a line of fire coursed at the harpoons – but a shaman shot his hands up and a gushing of powerful water burst from the ground, sizzling out the dragon’s flame before it was able to burst against the guns.
The dragon snarled and shot back up out of range again.
Wrathion watched, fixated. The ground rumbled beneath his feet with the activity. He’d never seen battle before and it was enthralling -
A groan from Anduin made him snap out of his sudden mesmerization. He glanced at the prince; Anduin hadn’t gotten up.
“My leg,” Anduin murmured, not looking up. “It won’t move.”
Wrathion glanced up at Sabellian – the dragon was coming in for another dive with a thundering roar – before looking at Anduin. He knelt slightly, pushing Anduin’s face up to look at him. He grinned sharply.
“I wouldn’t worry about moving, Prince Anduin,” Wrathion chirped. “There is nothing to worry about.”
A fireball smashed against the kypari tree. The bark flew above their heads, but the Black Prince ducked out of instinct anyway. There was a huge whoosh of air above as Sabellian shot across before arching back around and slamming towards the harpoons. The blue gun exploded with a flurry of wood and metal as Sabellian’s heavy claws burst against it.
“Well,” Wrathion murmured. “I may have spoken a bit too soon.”
Varian saw them. The Ghost Wolf’s eyes locked on Anduin, then on Wrathion, in the brief moment of calm as Sabellian shot into the sky again, one harpoon gun destroyed.
“Get my son out of here!”
Wrathion didn’t need to be told twice.
“Alright, dear prince -” He looped his good arm underneath Anduin’s arm, tried to lift him, and grunted with effort. “Ugh. At least try to move!”
Anduin managed to move his left leg and find purchase on the ground, though his right was as stiff as wood; it didn’t relax from its bend as Wrathion and Anduin got to their feet.
“This isn’t working,” Anduin panted. Sweat beaded down his forehead, probably from the fierce flames from the wall of fire that had only grown in size. The yells and cries of the Alliance were deafening, and mixed with Sabellian’s ear-splitting roars, Wrathion strained to hear the Alliance prince – though while all of the sounds should have confused him, they made the blood in his muscles feel like it was super-heating. His heart beat not with fear but with excitement.
“I can see that.” Another whoosh of air above – Wrathion pulled Anduin close and ducked just as Sabellian’s claws snatched at where their shoulders had just been.
Sabellian snarled. Wrathion looked up. A Blacktalon had reappeared on Sabellian’s back and was trying to find a weak point in the plates along his spine; in the confusion Wrathion couldn’t make out who it was. Sabellian twisted hard, and the Blacktalon fell, but disappeared before their body hit the ground.
Left appeared from the air at Anduin’s side. She put her arm around the prince’s waist and with the added leverage, Wrathion could carry him.
Wrathion nodded at Left, and they dragged Anduin to the side of the kypari tree, underneath one of the roots that coiled out from the ground only to dig back into the dirt like an emerging earthworm. The Prince and his bodyguard set Anduin in the tiny shadowed crevice, the root above him, shadowing his body from the air – from Sabellian – and let go.
Anduin slumped back. His arm was held close to his chest, and his right leg was still stiff. Wrathion smelled burnt skin. The Black Prince scowled, his anger at Sabellian vaulting up his chest.
“Left, teach the Alliance how to use harpoons,” Wrathion ordered. “If you have to shove them out of the way and do it yourself, do it.”
The orc nodded and disappeared, off to carry out her Prince’s demands.
“Wrathion,” Anduin mumbled. His blue eyes locked onto Wrathion’s red ones; his look was dazed, pained. “Sabellian -”
“Is being taken care of.” Wrathion smoothed back Anduin’s wildly sticking-up hair and smiled with his usual charm as he called out with his mind to the nearest Agent.
They appeared with a poof of smoke at the dragon’s side, panting hard, blood splayed across their face. It was the human.
“Be a dear and guard the prince,” Wrathion said. “If he is harmed, do not show your face to me again.”
Without waiting for a reply from either the Agent or Anduin, Wrathion shifted into his whelp form and flew out to the chaos at the harpoon guns.
The remains of the blue harpoon gun that Sabellian had destroyed lay scattered across the ground. Some of the Alliance had mounted their gryphons, now unhooked from the harnesses tying them to the machines, and were awaiting orders to attack Sabellian from the sky; the dragon was circling, his horned head tilted down. Wrathion noted that the dragon’s right, injured wing hardly beat anymore, only once or twice to keep him aloft; the whelp smirked wide. Excellent.
He landed by the black harpoon gun and shifted back into human form. Left was yelling at the dwarf who manned the gun, making stiff, jerking gestures to the dwarf, to the gun, then to Sabellian up above. The red harpoon gun was manned by a more capable-looking draenei warrior. The chains buzzed in their loops behind the harpoons.
“That wing of his won’t last long,” Varian said. The king was to the side of Wrathion. He glanced at the Black Prince. “My son?”
The king nodded and glanced back up at Sabellian; the dragon still only circled.
Sabellian’s head turned. Even from the high distance Wrathion could see that the orange eyes were locked on him.
The Black Prince looked away and around. The fires were roaring high in their circle. Everyone was panting, sweating in the inferno – save for Wrathion, of course, who stood unaffected.
He, strangely, saw no bodies.
“Get the gryphons to guide him closer,” Wrathion said. His heart felt like it was going to burst from his chest. He wanted the harpoons in Sabellian’s flesh now! “A game and cat and mouse.”
Sabellian dove suddenly and lava, not fire, spat from his mouth before he slammed back up again out of the harpoon’s aiming distance; he’d seemed to have experience with harpoons, judging by how easily he knew how high to go to avoid them.
The lava splashed in front of the machines. The ground bubbled. The harpoon guns lurched forward as a pit of living rock began to yawn open when the ground liquified.
Varian was the first to react. He grabbed onto the back of the black harpoon gun and began trying to haul it back; the other Alliance was quick to help, and the harpoon groaned and its bars cracked at the sides with the shifts in motion.
The crisis was averted when both harpoons were pulled back by the quick action. Ahead, Sabellian snarled. Wrathion wanted to laugh at his frustration, but resigned himself to focus.
“The gryphons?” Wrathion prodded.
Varian scowled. He gestured to the Alliance who had mounted. “Lead the dragon close!”
“Fire when he is on target, if you would,” Wrathion said to the draenei after leaning over to speak to him personally. The draenei only nodded.
The gryphons launched into the air, three in total. Sabellian saw them and snorted.
Wrathion twitched. The gryphons got close to the dragon, but Sabellian only swatted at them and did not follow when they tried to urge him forward, closer to the harpoons. It wasn’t working – either Sabellian was too smart or his wing was too weak to move him unless he really needed to.
The harpoons were aimed and ready, however.
“He’s going to try and get me some time!” Wrathion snapped.
Varian looked at him with a gleam in his eye. Wrathion paused.
“Now wait a minute -”
Varian grabbed him and hauled him forward, stepping over the holes of bubbling earth and pulling him ahead of the line, ahead of the harpoons, and head of the soldiers, right at the edge of the wall of fire.
Wrathion struggled and flailed. “This is ridiculous! You stupid king! Let go of me! Let go of me right now!”
Varian whistled high and harsh. Before Wrathion had the sense to call out to Left, who in the confusion was trying to take control of the black harpoon gun from the dwarf, one of the gryphons dove, grabbed Wrathion by his shoulders, and bolted back up into the air.
Wrathion yelped and flailed out even more violently as the ground went distant below him; he felt like he’d left his stomach behind.
“Let me down this instant, you pathetic excuse for a -!”
The gryphon lurched to the side. Wrathion stopped and went very still. His good hand quickly reached up and snatched onto the gryphon’s scaly-like arms as they turned to face Sabellian, who was hovering in the air.
Sabellian saw him.
“An air hand-over,” the elder dragon panted. “How charming.”
The gryphon started backing up. Wrathion bit hit lip. Varian had just handed him over for bait!
Sabellian growled. He looked at the gryphon, then at Wrathion, hungrily.
Wrathion wasn’t sure if he was elated or terrified when Sabellian took the bait and surged forward, apparently deciding trying to grab Wrathion was worth the risk of the harpoons.
The gryphon tore back through the sky, whipping Wrathion around with it. He flinched and held on tight with his hand, so tight he could feel the gryphon’s pulse, though it mattered little; the beast’s sharp claws were gripped hard on his shoulders as they rushed through the air. Wrathion curled his knees closer to his body rather than have his legs flailing outwards, an easy target for Sabellian to grab.
Sabellian snarled behind them. Wrathion grimaced – the harpoons were just in front of them, but Sabellian was too close -
The gryphon shrieked and so did its rider as a great force slammed against the beast’s hindquarters. Wrathion yelled out in alarm as they started tumbling. Sabellian growled; in a brief, confused second while his vision blurred back and forth Wrathion saw that one of the elder dragon’s claws had grabbed onto the gryphon and was hauling it back.
A blur of yellow and brown tackled into the side of Sabellian’s neck. The dragon snarled, jerking his neck back in surprise, as one of the other gryphons clawed at the soft underflesh of his neck while its rider, the dwarf who had spoken to Wrathion earlier, shot an arrow into part of Sabellian’s skin that was exposed from Alexstrasza shearing off of the scales there before.
Sabellian let go of the gryphon holding Wrathion with a frustrated growl as the arrow pierced his skin – but the gryphon was injured and started falling, the air and wind screaming against Wrathion’s face.
Before they impacted Wrathion managed to shift into whelp form and wiggle out from the gryphon’s claws - though he landed in a confused tumble, dirt and grass sticking to his face. He groaned; his body shook with the impact.
Wrathion forced himself to look up. He blew the grass from his eyes.
Two of the gryphons were now wailing into Sabellian, picking off his scales like sparrows with a raven’s feathers. The elder dragon snarled – not in pain, but in annoyance – and set fire to one of the beast’s wings. The mount went tumbling. The gryphon who had fallen first was off to the side, struggling to get to its feet.
Wrathion panted heavily. He looked at the harpoons, then at Sabellian – the dragon was close enough. His blood felt like it was aflame.
“Fire!” He yelled high above the sound of snarls and yells and the firing of guns. “Bring him down!”
Wrathion shifted back into human form and grabbed onto the side of the red harpoon gun. Sabellian had heard him. The elder dragon whacked away with a swipe of his paw the last gryphon tormenting him and opened his wings to flurry away -
A great groaning and cracking of wood and metal sounded from the red harpoon as the draenei manning it followed his orders.
With a thoom the harpoon was launched, the chains trailing behind it -
Sabellian was too slow with the injured wing; the harpoon pierced the dragon’s shoulder with a fleshy thunk.
The dragon roared out in agony so loud that the ground beneath Wrathion’s feet felt like it was shaking.
Sabellian lurched forward. His wings went askew in mid-air. Wrathion laughed out loud and watched; he leaned forward, his claws digging holes into the wood of the harpoon gun’s side -
The chains trailing behind the harpoon sparked and spurred into action. As Sabellian flailed, trying not to fall and trying to pull the harpoon out at the same time, the titan’s technology lifted up in a snake-like coil and wrapped, as if it had a mind of its own, around the dragon’s front legs, binding them together. There was a tremendous crackling, a mini thunder strike, and electricity burst up the elder dragon’s chest.
Sabellian jerked his head back and roared. Wrathion grinned savagely.
“Fire the second one!”
Left shoved the fumbling dwarf out of the way, took a hold of the controls, aimed, and fired the red harpoon.
Sabellian couldn’t dodge. The harpoon slammed deep into his thigh, and the chains shot up and curled around his wings and back legs in mere seconds.
The dragon fell and smashed into the ground with a boom that nearly took Wrathion’s feet out from underneath him.
Dirt and grass plumed up from where he landed. Wrathion stared, unhooking his claws from the harpoon. From beyond the dying wall of fire came a pained snarl.
But Sabellian did not fly back up.
Wrathion grinned widely and panted hard.
In that quick, chaotic moment his plan had worked.
A small cheer went up amongst the Alliance, but Wrathion hardly heard them. He jumped over the wall of flame, Left trailing behind him, and went to see his handiwork.
Sabellian was sprawled in an upturned ditch made from his own impact. He was struggling to get back up, but with each movement the chains buzzed and sent a wave of electricity. The dragon snarled again and shook his head out, dirt and grass flying, struggling against the pain and his bonds. The harpoons stuck out from his sides; they were so deep and the aim so accurate that hardly any blood seeped down the punctures.
Of course that would change when Wrathion would have them removed, he thought happily.
“Oh, don’t move!” Wrathion chirped. “I wouldn’t want you to injure yourself further.”
Sabellian looked at him. He growled and shifted again, chains rattling, but flinched when the electricity coursed over him again.
“Insolent little child,” Sabellian snarled, smoke snorting from his nostrils. His side heaved heavily in deep panting.
Wrathion smiled and placed a hand around the small horn at the top of Sabellian’s snout.
“Actually,” Wrathion said with mock thoughtfulness. “Move. Quite a lot. I hope it hurts,” Wrathion added brightly. He moved his hand from the horn and pat the end of Sabellian’s snout. The elder dragon snarled and snapped his teeth forward and Wrathion tore his hand back.
“That’s enough, Wrathion.” The Black Prince glanced back, annoyed at being interrupted during his gloating. Varian came up to his side and looked Sabellian over. The elder dragon growled at him, though Wrathion noted with great enjoyment that Sabellian wasn’t trying to move anymore.
Varian looked back at Sabellian. His expression was unreadable. The other Blacktalons reappeared next to Wrathion’s right side behind Left, who stood very still but eyed Sabellian with obvious anger. The smell of smoke and burnt earth was overwhelming.
“Yes, well. You have your son and I have my brother. A good day’s work.”
Varian made a noncommittal mm. He did not look away from Sabellian for a long moment; the elder dragon’s breathing was heavy and labored, and he did not try to speak. His eyes were lidded.
A frustrated mumbling caught Wrathion’s attention. He glanced behind Varian and saw Anduin – how on earth had he stood up?- limping towards them with a piece of wood he’d apparently ripped off from the kypari tree as a makeshift cane.
Wrathion sighed. Stubborn prince. He motioned his head to Anduin and one of his Blacktalons went to help, but Anduin shook his head at the blood elf.
Varian turned, saw his son, and rushed forward with a speed that did not seem to fit his size. He put his hands on the blond’s shoulders, stared him over, then brought him in a quick, fierce embrace before letting go after Anduin groaned.
“Your arm.” The king gently took his son’s gashed forearm and looked it over. He scowled. “Our shaman will heal you.” He glanced at the blood elf Blacktalon suspiciously. “I can trust you to take my son back to -”
“No, it’s alright, Father,” Anduin mumbled. His voice was muddled as if he had been drinking. He must have lost a lot of blood. “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. Go with Wrathion’s Agent.”
Wrathion watched awkwardly, unsure what to do with himself. Sabellian laughed, though it was humorless and weak.
“Does that confuse you, little prince?” The dragon murmured. “Yes, I suppose it does. You wouldn’t know a father’s care for their children.”
Wrathion glared at him.
“Wait.” Wrathion glanced at Anduin again; the prince was trying to put up his injured arm as if to keep his father at a distance, but the whole limb shook. “I just – I just need to -” He glanced at Sabellian, took in the chains, then glanced at Wrathion. “What are you doing?”
“Finishing this, Prince Anduin,” Wrathion replied smoothly. “I shall take him elsewhere, of course.”
“Alright, son. You need to get healed. Now.”
The blood elf, on queue, took a hold of Anduin’s shoulders. The prince resisted for a moment, locked Wrathion with a strange, undecipherable look that went back to Sabellian before he gave in and allowed the Agent to lead him back to the group.
Varian sighed, ran a hand over his face, and looked at Wrathion.
“I won’t pretend to know what this is about,” he started, nodding his head to Sabellian, whose eyes had closed, “But I will thank you for helping to save my son.”
Wrathion went to smile smugly, but thought better of it. He nodded at Varian.
“I hope you’ll remember the favor, King Varian,” Wrathion said.
The king huffed, then turned to follow after his son.
Wrathion looked at Sabellian. He looked at the harpoons, the chains, the sheer way that the dragon, thousands of years older than him, had been brought down in a painful net by his own genius, he thought to himself.
He was almost in disbelief. It had happened so quickly! He placed his hand against the small horn again, but this time Sabellian didn’t move or snarl.
Wrathion smiled widely. Now to force the dragon into human form, and he could continue this… elsewhere.
This had gone too well.