Sabellian eagerly awaits news regarding the Black Prince, whose existence he has just yet learned of.
Sablemane had not heard from the nether drakes for three weeks, but when his robotic whelping crackled to life and opened its maw to deliver their first report, he could not have been more relieved that they finally had something, or more amused.
“A whelp? He is a whelp?” Sablemane laughed thunderously. “Our murderous little relative is just a child?!”
His laugh echoed through his empty cave. The automaton flapped noisily in front of him.
“He was able to kill a full grown red dragon.”
Sablemane’s laugh died instantaneously.
“That’s impossible. And absurd. What stupid rumors are you listening to?”
There was a pause, filled by the empty static coming from the whelp’s maw.
“The information we’ve managed to glean from the subject is very trustworthy,” came Suraku’s voice again, finally. “It has been horrendously difficult to find any sort of tidbit on the Black Prince – it’s as if he’s made of smoke! - but this is a fact we’re sure of.”
Sablemane shook his head. “He cannot be a whelp, then. A whelp cannot kill a grown dragon. He’d be crushed beneath a paw.”
“From our reports, he hatched roughly two years ago.”
The dragon rubbed at his eyes, exasperated. “And you’re telling me a hatchling killed an adult dragon. Is that what you’re saying? That, somehow, a hatchling found the last of my kind on Azeroth and killed them? That a hatchling has employed mortal assassins like the one that was trying to kill my son to do his bidding?”
“Grah!” Sablemane clenched his fists, and a plume of smoke shot unbidden from his mouth in his outburst. “That is completely absurd. There must be some mistake. Find out what mistake that is.”
“… Yes, Sabellian.”
Sablemane took a deep breath to soothe his annoyance. At least they had found something about this mysterious dragon, regardless if they were false rumors; it was a start. “Have you anything else to report, then?”
“We did find his name. He calls himself Wrathion.”
“Mm.” At least it was less ridiculous than ‘the Black Prince.’ Sablemane rolled his eyes just thinking about it. Perhaps this ‘Wrathion’ was just a whelp to think prancing about with that title was a fine idea.
“He is also the direct son of Deathwing, my lord.”
“A direct son?”
“Yes. We are unsure of the mother.”
Sablemane thought quietly for a moment. It was their first report; perhaps, like the nether drake’s first rattled off facts, this may be false as well. But if not -
The dragon smiled grimly and shook his head. “A brother, then.” He snorted. “I always seem to have the worst siblings.” Briefly he recalled the twisted experiments of Nefarian and the power-hungry plots of Onyxia. Stupid, foolish wyrms. To have been resurrected and died again at the hands of mortals again – how had they not seen that coming? And how close had Sabellian himself had come to sharing the same fate?
“Is that it, then?”
“Yes, sir. We are headed to Pandaria now - “
“Pandaria? What on Azeroth for?”
“We believe he’s there.”
“Interesting.” Sablemane sighed loudly. “Very well. Continue your reconnaissance. I will await your next report earnestly and will hope I will not have to wait as long as for this one.”
He shut the whelp’s maw and severed the connection.
“An intriguing place to hide, little brother,” he murmured, smoothing back his goatee with his thumb. “So hide while you can.”
“I cannot believe this. This is ridiculous.”
Two weeks had passed, much too slow for Sabellian’s liking. The nether drakes had made it to Pandaria and now traversed the continent in both their dragon and mortal bodies, cloaking themselves with heavy garments to hide their ethereal appearances that clung to them even in their human forms; they had quickly learned stealth when discovering that Pandaria was crawling with Wrathion’s agents, garbed in the same gear as the blood elf spy had been in Blade’s Edge Mountains, whose lingering eyes watched them quietly from the shadows.
“All of the rumors from the previous reports are true. Questioning the adventurers here has not been easy with Wrathion’s agents seeming to appear from every nook and cranny to watch us, but we do have confirmation.”
“Even about the fact he’s a whelp?”
“Indeed, even that. We overheard a night elf laughing about it with her companions. Apparently she had seen it herself when in his company.”
Sabellian tore into the hellboar carcass in his paws and considered. “He’s befriending more mortals than just his hired assassins, then, if this night elf was with him.”
Another yes. “The most powerful champions are flocking to him. He’s offering… rewards.”
Sabellian rolled his eyes. “I will never understand mortals’ fascination with silly baubles.” He wiped a smear of blood from his maw. “And I do not understand why these champions trust him. Surely they’re aware he’s a black dragon, yes?”
“… Yes, they are aware.” A pause. “It seems the rumor about his… lack of Old God taint is true as well.”
The dragon ground his teeth, the bones of the hellboar crushing to powder in his mouth. “Explain to me how and I will believe you.”
“Something about experimentation and the Red Dragonflight. We’ve been trying to ask, but – no one really seems to know beyond that.”
“The Red Dragonflight experimenting?” He let out a bark of a laugh. “Humorous. It seems my late brother Nefarian was not the only one interested in such things.” Sabellian tapped his claws on the hard ground of the cave. “But to remove corruption – hm. It may be… plausible. And if these champions trust him for it… mm.” Sabellian pushed the remaining scraps of the carcass away. “Or this Wrathion is simply very good at hiding his taint.”
He tilted his head thoughtfully. “If he is a whelp - ” he snorted - “and he was able to kill grown dragons – we must consider how. If the Red Dragonflight did dabble in experimentation, we may conclude it made him more powerful. Nefarian was always complaining about unwanted side effects in his own creations.”
“I wish I could confirm your hypothesis, Sabellian, but we have no other information on the matter. What you are explaining makes the most sense, but… we can’t conclude it with facts.”
“Of course you can’t.” Sabellian got to his feet and shook out his wings. “An uncorrupted son of Deathwing… he is more my relative than the rest of my dead kin in this respect.”
“Suraku, I want you two to get closer. More information. I am pleased you’ve confirmed what I thought was impossible, but I need more. Do you know where he hides?”
“We have some idea.”
“Go there. I want you to see this murderous little whelp with your own eyes. No, do not complain about his guards, I don’t care. You’re going to do this. If the Black Prince killed the rest of our kind, I want to find out his true intention for it: power as the last, or humane euthanization?”
“Report back immediately when you do. Use whatever methods you can to get this information for me, Suraku… perhaps the best option would be to capture him. I don’t think you’ll be getting any better information otherwise. Please do not fail me; I’m loath to wait longer for the answer to my question if I have to send more nether drakes to take your place.” Smoke curled from his nostrils in a calm show of anger. “If this pompous ‘last of his kind’ finds us and does plan to kill us - then perhaps we will kill him first.”
The whelp went silent. And Sabellian waited.
Wrathion leaned back into his seat and sighed contently.
It was quickly becoming twilight; the mists of the Veiled Stair muted out the gentle purples and blues of the dying sunlight of the sky. The last of his champions had left for the day with their assignments, and the Tavern quieted save for the clanging of pots and pans as Tong prepared dinner for his permanent resident and his guards.
The dragon took a sip of the warm green tea in his hands and exhaled loudly. Today had been especially tiring; a Worgen had come whining, proclaiming that Sigils of Wisdom seemed non-existent, and refused to leave until the Black Prince had convinced her that, yes, they existed, and that she just wasn’t looking hard enough. A troll had gotten into a scuffle with Left, saying that she’d looked at him funny. Even an undead horse for sale at Madame Goya’s had gotten loose and had terrorized the travelers who had just gotten up the Path until Wrathion had gotten annoyed with their screaming and had his agents capture the flaming beast and drag it back to the Auction House.
It was a relief to finally relax by himself – with the exception of Left and Right behind him. Wrathion glanced up to look out of the circular portal that led outside. He had been in here all day.
“When is dinner, Tong?” He called out curiously, swirling the tea in his hand and turning his attention to it with sudden boredom, watching the water slosh around as he leaned his head onto his free hand.
“Oh… maybe a half hour,” Tong yelled back, straining to be overheard amongst the sizzles and pops of cooking food and the crash of pots as he worked.
Wrathion smiled brightly. “Good. I have time for a walk.” He stood up, abandoning his drink, and gestured to Left and Right with his head. “You two stay here. I’d like to be alone for a moment.”
Left gave a noncommittal grunt and Right simply nodded. He often went off during this time of day to muse by his lonesome, grateful for the silence of the mists compared to the clamor of the entire day; they were used to staying behind during it, by now.
“Do let Tong know I’ll be back momentarily, would you?”
Another nod from Right, and Wrathion left the Tavern, heading towards Mason’s Folly, his favorite spot on the mountain. The view was lovely. It let him … think.
Annoyed with the stairs up towards the peak, he transformed into a whelp and flew the rest of the way, alighting down on the marbled balcony at the top and reverting back swiftly. The yawning landscape of the Jade Forest below greeted him, and he smiled to himself as he leaned on the bannister to look down at the expanse.
It was beautiful. Awe-inspiring. If he focused hard enough, he could nearly feel the very earth beneath him, feel its energy and life, feel the instinctual need to protect it.
He stood that way for a while, simply finding peace among the earth. His eyes had begun to droop when he saw something at the corner of his eye, dark and vague, standing still among the rocks.
Oh, good. Entertainment.
Wrathion showed no sign that he had seen. Instead he focused on trying to find the figure’s scent -
There it was. It was oddly muted as if the figure was behind a shield, but he could still pick up the lightning-like scent of nether energies.
Wrathion smiled, but did not look in the figure’s direction.
Oh, things had gotten rather interesting.
He looked down at his hands and flexed them casually.
It was no red dragon, that much he was certain. Unfortunate. He would have enjoyed taking out another of their attackers as he had beforehand.
“I would advise you to better yourself at hiding,” Wrathion called out then, his smile slowly upturning into a vicious smirk. “Or hurry up and lunge at me, if not - ”
The figure hurled itself forward from the shadows. In that slim moment Wrathion turned and unsheathed the hidden dagger at his belt, saw his ambusher head on, a cloaked humanoid with a face like ice, transparent, eyes ablaze with nether, his mouth in a snarl, hands outstretched in mid-transformation as they twisted into blue, shimmering claws.
Wrathion swiped at the dragon with skillful agility. The attacker gave a startled cry as the wicked dagger sliced across his chest, but dodged Wrathion’s next kill blow at his throat, ducking down and with an explosion of energy transformed into an azure nether drake, nether streaming from its body in arcs.
This caught Wrathion by surprise.
He’d heard of nether drakes. He’d been intrigued. Black dragon eggs warped into something not quite black dragon, just like himself.
He had not counted on being ambushed by one.
There was a roar behind him.
Ambushed by two, then.
With a growl he sent a shock of black magic at the blue nether drake before turning swiftly and uppercutting with his dagger at the purple nether drake that had leaped out at him. The weapon sliced through the nether drake’s face, taking out an eye, and the dragon screeched in agony before landing on its head among the path up to the balcony.
The blue nether drake had recovered from the magic bolt. It surged forward, swiping a paw, trying to pull Wrathion’s legs out from under him; he didn’t count on Wrathion transforming into a whelp mid-swipe, causing the drake to miss completely and slam forward on his chest from momentum.
Wrathion twisted in mid-air, reverted back to human form, and landed hard on the blue drake, digging his heels into the drake’s flesh that strangely felt like hard jelly beneath him. The drake turned its shark-like head to bite back at him, but the Black Prince grinned ferociously and grabbed one of the drake’s horns, twisting the drake’s head at a vicious angle and raising his dagger to slit his throat.
A force slammed into him. He went tumbling from the back of the nether drake and into the bannister of Mason’s Folly with a shock of pain, his eyes going blurry from the impact. But he could still see the snarling face of the purple nether drake that had tackled him, and could see that the nether drake had made a very poor decision.
“Hello,” Wrathion said, before hurling his dagger right in the center of the drake’s soft, open throat.
The drake’s eyes widened; its body shook for a moment before silvery blood leaked from its now open mouth, and with a creaking breath, it collapsed lifelessly at Wrathion’s feet.
The blue nether drake stared at his dead companion before snapping his head to Wrathion, his face contorted with anger.
The Black Prince smiled and slid his weapon from the drake’s throat, the dragon’s blood slick on the metal.
“I believe you two made a very poor choice in ambushing me.”
The nether drake roared, and a gout of nether flame shot from his mouth. Wrathion dodged easily, almost gracefully, and nearly laughed at that desperation and rage in the other dragon’s eyes.
He spread out his arms openly, tauntingly. “Well? Here I am, drake. By all means, come and get me.” He smiled wider, showing his pointed teeth. “Or would you like to end up like your companion?”
The nether drake’s eyes blazed. That had set him over. Good.
Fueled by immediate hate the dragon crouched and the nether energy about him crackled and popped and hissed like a storm.
Wrathion waited patiently.
The drake pounced, all of his desperation fueling his strong energy, stronger than Wrathion had anticipated. But no matter; he braced himself, waited until the was in the air, until the drake nearly upon him, until the drake was mere inches from grabbing him with his claws -
And then Wrathion ducked quickly slid his dagger up into the nether drake’s gut, felt the muscle give way underneath the steel, felt the blood fly back onto his face as the nether drake sailed over his head and fell with a cry, his legs and wings askew, breath short and rasping.
The Black Prince dropped his smile; his face was calm now, nearly expressionless, as he strode over to the dying nether drake and looked down on him, clasping his hands behind his back with his dagger still in one hand.
The nether drake lifted his head painfully and hissed at him, silvery blood gushing from his gut and drooling out in a pool around him. He tried to get up, but shuddered and fell again in a heap. Wrathion watched quietly.
“Dare I ask who sent you?” The Black Prince asked, a undertone of anger underneath his voice. “I would think the Red Dragonflight was not as low as to send mutants to kill or kidnap me.”
The nether drake scowled, shuddered again, and took a moment before answering, the agony clear in his voice. “Not the Red- Red…whelp.” He spit whelp as if it were a word made of acid, aimed to harm him. Wrathion, again, did not humor the drake with a reaction.
“Unfortunate.” He knelt down to the drake’s level to stare into his eyes which were slowly losing their light. “But I digress!” He smiled politely, took the dagger from behind his back, and put his other hand’s palm on the side of the drake’s head. “It may have been wise to have researched me beforehand. You may have easily avoided your death.” He pat the drake’s head in an almost friendly manner. And then the smile vanished from his face, replaced with a scowl. “No one ambushes me.”
He sunk the dagger slowly into the drake’s throat, then, never breaking eye contact, watching and relishing in how the life left the drake’s eyes until the drake breathed no more. Wrathion stayed crouched there for a moment before standing back up, sheathing the dagger, and brushing himself off.
Only then did he notice the belt like leather strapped around the drake’s back leg; attached to it was a small satchel. He frowned thoughtfully and unlatched the satchel from the belt; he must not have seen it during the scuffle.
“What do you have in here?” Wrathion purred, intrigued at how the bag felt heavy in his hands with the weight of potential. He opened the flap and lifted the thing inside out, grinning immediately.
It was a small robotic whelp, covered in realistic scales, its eyes embedded with rubies. Thankfully it had not suffered much damage from the fight, save for a dent in its belly.
“What a lovely little toy!” Wrathion said, clearly delighted as he looked it over curiously. “I wonder what you do.”
He stepped over the drakes’ corpses casually as he looked the contraption over and headed back towards the Tavern, ignoring the painful throbbing in his shoulder and back from where he had been crushed into the bannister by the purple drake. He made it half-way down when Right and Left nearly ran right into him.
“Your Majesty! What was all of that?!” Right exclaimed, obviously alarmed.
“Hm? Oh.” Wrathion waved his hand dismissively and moved passed the two startled women, continuing on towards the Tavern, still looking over the whelp, turning it over in his hands. “Nothing. A duo of assassins or kidnappers – I wasn’t quite sure which.”
“I hope that’s a joke,” Left grunted, turning her head to look up at Mason’s Folly, unable to see the cooling carcasses from the angle they were in. She shook her head and the two bodyguards fell in their respected places at Wrathion’s side as he walked.
Wrathion smiled wryly but did not answer. “Would you send for an engineer, please? I’d like to solve this little puzzle.” They entered the Tavern and Wrathion put the whelp down on the table, his attention shifting to the scent of finished food.
“Tong! Drinks, please!” He sat down in his usual seat, leaned forward and smiled at the automaton. “Now, let’s see what secrets you have!”