The Wrath of Sabellian (pt. 7)

Wrathion, Anduin, and Left escape Sabellian while the elder dragon plans his next move.

“You didn’t need to shoot him!”

They hurdled through the mountains. The sun was rising, and its glare across the snowy peaks was nearly blinding. Anduin squinted his eyes and held on tight to Left’s waist with one arm, while his other was wrapped protectively around Wrathion, who was wedged in-between the orc’s back and the blond’s stomach.

“I did what I had to. I saw my chance and took it, and the Prince is out of danger now because of it,” came Left’s snarl as she turned the gryphon hard around one of the mountains, then tilted them downwards into a stomach-dropping dive. The wind screamed in Anduin’s ears.

The prince closed his eyes. It took effort, but he managed to swallow down the argument that burned at the back of his head: that he nearly had it handled peacefully. That though Wrathion was out of danger now, the elder dragon was still alive, that he would come for him again. If he could have just coaxed Wrathion into talking to Sabellian…

The gryphon went level and Anduin opened his eyes again. He couldn’t waste time worrying over it now. The slim chance for any semblance of peace had been broken when Left’s arrow had pierced Sablemane’s chest.

What he had to worry now was Wrathion’s well-being. He glanced down at the whelp curled in the crook of his arm and his frustration with Left was forgotten, overcome with concern for the unresponsive dragon. The Black Prince’s head was tilted, as if to hide his face, into the bend of Anduin’s wrist, and one of his wings limply drooped over the blond’s arm that held him close. The shine of Wrathion’s blood was bright against his black scales and Anduin’s leather garb where it had smeared.

A ferocious roar echoed faintly from the mountains.

The gryphon faltered. Wrathion curled up into himself more and Anduin chanced a glance over his shoulder, eyes wide.

Sabellian hadn’t been able to follow them immediately – Anduin briefly recalled, in the blurred and recent memory, the dragon’s frustration, how his large draconic form couldn’t move nor budge in the low cavern – but it didn’t seem to have held him forever.

“We are far off. Be glad your gryphon is as white as the snow, Prince Anduin! We’ll lose him easily.” Left called behind her shoulder, then turned the panicking gryphon downwards and around through the canyons. There was another roar, and just as Anduin turned his face back to look ahead of them again he saw from the corner of his eye a far-off explosion of snow lit behind fire.

“Left -”

“I hear him.”

She yanked on the reins and dug her heels into the gryphon’s sides simultaneously; the gryphon nose-dived with a shriek, and Anduin had to tighten his hold hard on the orc’s waist and Wrathion himself from flying back off of the mount.

The gryphon equaled out, but was soon twirled around one of the peaks.

“Left, what are you doing?!” Anduin yelled. His whole vision bobbed up and down.

“Losing him! Now be quiet, prince!”

Another roar from behind them, closer. There was a sudden rush of air against the back of Anduin’s head, ruffling his burnt hair -

From above and from nowhere Sabellian’s jaws descended and snapped so close to the gryphon’s flank that if Left had not forced the mount into another dive with her viper-quick twist of the reins the rescue party would have been done right then and there.

The white gryphon screamed. Anduin yelled, too.

Another snap from Sabellian, who was flying right behind them now, but clumsily in the quickly-shrinking canyons, as they shot from the deeper mountains towards the smaller range that was nearer to the Summit’s plains.

Heat glowed behind them and the mountains went alight with the red highlight of fire.

But Sabellian was still too far away from them for the hit to land… though he was catching up fast.

“Hold on, prince!” Left yelled. Anduin did as he was told and gripped onto Wrathion tightly. The whelp whined.

With the gryphon’s nimbleness, throttled nearer towards a frenzy from the beast’s panic, Left began executing sharp turns, dives, and loops through and around the peaks. Fire continued to burst behind them, but as dizzy and sick as Anduin felt from the wild riding he could slowly feel its heat become less and less hot against his back.

Sabellian was falling behind, no doubt slowed by the gryphon’s swerves. Again the dragon’s size, as in the cavern, had been a downfall.

“Cowards!” The elder dragon roared. “Come back here!”

The gryphon and its riders shot around another peak.

“We can’t keep going like this,” Anduin shouted above the wind. “My gryphon is going to tire herself out!”

The beast was well-bred, but no animal could fly as hard as she was for that long.

Left nodded – then rocks showered above their heads. Sabellian was trying to gain the advantage by flying high above them.

Anduin looked up, and saw the dragon slam his tail into the peak above, and larger boulders fell from the mountain-side… but even then the dragon was too far behind and the rocks fell harmlessly behind them -

Until Sablemane slammed a rock with his tail and it struck the gryphon’s back leg with a crack.

The animal screeched and faltered. Sabellian shot down from the peak, his wings folded close to his sides like a falcon’s, and dove so quickly that it seemed impossible with his size.

Left tried to urge the gryphon on at the same speed but the mount was still faltering, still slowing, and Sabellian was nearly upon them with his talons beginning to stretch out and his neck snapping forward like a cobra’s -

At the last possible moment Anduin tore his arm from Left’s waist and felt himself lurch backwards, but in that slim heartbeat of a second, he lifted his free hand and summoned the Light in an explosion of white and it enveloped them like a shell, a shield, thick and pulsating like the skin of a heart.

Anduin fell back against the wall of the Light’s shield – then slammed forward into Left’s back as Sabellian’s claws slammed into the barrier and hurdled them forward.

The dragon flailed, Left turned the gryphon sharply, and Sabellian, now off-balance from his claws slipping against the slippery barrier, slammed into the side of the mountain with a boom, his wings askew.

Anduin’s arm found Left’s waist again as his shield flickered; it wouldn’t catch him again.

Anduin, breathing hard, his heart in his throat at having been that close to falling to his death, turned away and squinted his eyes as Left flew them down into the canyons of the lower mountains and dove underneath one of the outcrops of rock.

Left halted the gryphon to a stop; the beast’s sides shook, and her leg that had been hit by the rock was tucked up near its belly.

“Left,” Anduin whispered, his voice breathless, his heart still wild, “what are we doing?” Sabellian had crashed into the mountain and the distraction had given them all the time in the world to fly out of the mountain range and into the plains. Wrathion twitched his wings in Anduin’s arms once, then went still again. He’d hardly moved at all during the chase.

A muted, echoing snarl rippled above them, followed by the frenzied beating of wings.

“Losing him. He would have caught up again,” the orc hissed. “Now shut up.”

The rock that they hid underneath just allowed them to see a slim viewpoint of the sky above – but the entire party stilled and near-held their breath as Sabellian’s tucked-in claws and clubbed tail sailed into view. Anduin was unable to see any far up, for the rock blocked his vision.

Sabellian paused in midair; his great wings kept him aloft, beating hard to keep him in one place. Anduin swallowed. The dragon could be staring at them right now and they wouldn’t have known it, unable to see his face…

The dragon snarled, lifted his wings and flew in the direction he had come.

Anduin closed his eyes and sighed out deep in relief. His tight hold on Wrathion loosened the slightest amount.

“We’ll wait a bit longer before heading towards the plains,” Left murmured. Anduin nodded.

After a long, quiet moment, with no sounds of wings or roars, the orc inched the injured gryphon, who limped badly, out from underneath the rock. Anduin looked up, squinting his eyes to shield them from the rising sun, but saw no dragon waiting for them like a cat at a mouse’s hide-hole.

Compared to the frenzy of the chase, the quiet of the mountains was unnerving as they took off into the air again and headed towards the plains, which came upon them quickly as the mountain range steadily became lower and lower before sloping down altogether. Anduin kept expecting for Sabellian to pop out from some hidden crevice, but now that they were on the open ground, that particular paranoia fell away. The human felt, for now, the slightest bit safer.

Left turned the gryphon high up into the clouds. They were quiet for a time, the only sound the gryphon’s heavy breathing and the wail of the wind.

“We should stop soon,” Anduin said, finally breaking the silence as they passed over a hozen camp. His nerves had calmed down. “Wrathion-”

“I know about His Majesty’s condition, young prince. I’m not a fool. But we need to make some distance between ourselves and the black dragons beforehand.”

Anduin said nothing. Left was right, but Wrathion’s wounds would only get worse the longer they weren’t looked at; it was a frustrating decision. He glanced down at the unconscious, bloodied whelp, bit the inside of his cheek, before looking out over the yellow-brown landscape below them.

“We’ll be near the Vale soon,” he said after a moment. If there was a good place to heal Wrathion, it would be in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, whose mystic waters were famed for their restorative properties – properties Anduin himself still wished to study more of, not having had much of a chance to because of his recovery from the Divine Bell. “The Shrine of Seven Stars would -”

“Not the… not the Vale.” Anduin glanced down, surprised. Wrathion hadn’t opened his eyes, but he’d finally spoken, though his voice was barely coherent over the wind and the rasp of his throat. “They’ll… they’ll recognize me.”

Who will?” Anduin asked, confused.

“Champions,” Wrathion mumbled.

Anduin stared at him. He didn’t understand why that was so problematic. What was -?

“If His Majesty doesn’t want to go to the Vale, we won’t go to the Vale,” Left said. There was a tone of warning in her words. Anduin ground his teeth, but relented.

“The Valley of the Four Winds is below the Vale,” he murmured, trying to peel away the grumble in his words. “We could stop there.”

“It will have to do,” the orc said.

Anduin squinted down at Wrathion, waiting for him to protest, but the dragon seemed to have drifted off again.

The prince sighed and looked up again. The Vale would have been a better place, but the Valley was a good second option; the farming community there would probably not recognize the whelp for who he was and leave them alone.

As they flew, the Gate of the Vale gently becoming sharper in shine as they approached it, Anduin mulled to himself. The black dragons would be coming from Wrathion again, he supposed, and Left, Anduin, and Wrathion couldn’t stay in the Valley of the Four Winds forever. They had to find somewhere safe, somewhere guarded, where not even a full-grown son of Deathwing could easily barge into.

Anduin frowned thoughtfully. There was… one place… but hiding a black dragon, whelp or no, inside would not be the greatest idea… yet it was the only place that made sense.

The blond smiled then. Maybe it was a good idea. He filed the thought away to recommend to Left later as the sun rose against them.

—-

It was mid-afternoon when they arrived in Halfhill.

Left landed on one of the many dirt paths that led up into the large market area. Enormous, near-monstrous white hawks circled above, eyed the party curiously, then strove on in the direction of the rivers. On the horizon were dark, rolling clouds – a thunderstorm in the making, not unfamiliar to the Valley of the Four Winds.

Though they were outside of the town, Anduin could already hear the sounds of voracious trading, laughter, and playing mutely from the inn, the odd but uplifting wind-instruments of Pandaren song.

But what captivated the blond’s attention most was the intoxicating smell of food, from steak to noodles to brews, that drifted by on the gentle afternoon-breeze. His mouth watered; the prince hadn’t eaten since he’d left Lion’s Landing -… had it already been a day, already?

“Remember to keep your head down, prince,” Left grumbled as she guided the gryphon up the slope that led into the busy commerce-place. “You probably won’t be recognized – the mask while hide your features - but caution is best.”

Anduin nodded, then bent his head as they passed by the first buildings and began to weave through the steady traffic of people, most of them Pandaren. Some gave them wary glances – the prince suspected it was for the uniforms Left and he wore, for he was aware that the quiet infamy of the Blacktalons unnerved many - but no one stopped them.

Anduin busied himself by looking over the sleeping dragon in his arms again. Wrathion had hardly spoken since leaving Kun-lai, save for the occasional groan and whine. He calculated what wounds would be easiest to heal, which would be quickest, and what would be the most difficult. He frowned at the whelp’s forearm. Surely that would be -

“Get off.”

Anduin looked up as the saddle jostled with a jingle. Left had hopped off, and as she looped the leather reins from the white gryphon she gave the blond a pointed look. Only then did Anduin realize she was blocking him – and Wrathion – from view of most of those passing by with her back.

Quickly the prince huddled Wrathion closer to his chest, tucking in his purple-webbed wing into its gentle fold so that the brightness of the color would not flash out too much among the black. For any glancing eyes, they would only see black scales in Anduin’s arms; whether they thought it an onyx cloud serpent hatchling or simple dragonscale leather, the blond didn’t care, just as long as they couldn’t see it was the son of Deathwing.

The dragon let out a shaky breath as he was shifted around.

“Don’t open your eyes,” Anduin whispered, and put his other arm around the whelp to hold him securely. He twisted sideways in the saddle, then slid off, landing on his good leg; Anduin wouldn’t be able to use his cane while holding the Black Prince, but the blond was sure he could manage a few steps without it –… and he could not levitate out in the open so obviously without catching attention.

Left nodded at him, then turned and walked in the direction of one of the larger buildings in the town. The music Anduin had heard before was cheerily coming from its open windows and doors. It must have been the inn.

The prince followed close behind, bending his head again and keeping Wrathion close, but made sure to stay far back enough where he wouldn’t be stepping on the orc’s heels. His right leg burned as they walked up and down the small slope, passing a larger incline up where small residential shacks were built. People continued to glance at the party from the corner of their eyes - but looked away when Left shot them a glare when she caught them staring.

“Stable master - watch the gryphon. Fix her leg.” Anduin peered up through his hanging bangs; Left shoved the gryphon’s reins into the hands of a surprised looking Pandaren who stood in front of the inn, and handed over a small satchel of gold for the fare from her belt.

The rogue glanced back, saw Anduin was still there, then continued up into the tavern with a heavy stomping of her boots.

Anduin followed. The inn was loud with music, but the building was not altogether crowded. The blond supposed it was because of the time; the Valley was composed mostly of farming communities, and, just like the inns in Elywnn Forest, the tavern here would not be lively until the sun set and work was done.

“The innkeeper is there. Get yourselves a room.” Left was talking quietly, and Anduin had to strain to hear what she was saying above the music and casual conversations of the Pandaren around them. The orc nodded in the direction of a youthful Pandaren female who was organizing foodstuffs onto one of the tables.

Anduin tilted his bowed head up enough to frown at her. “What about yo-?”

“I won’t be needing a room. I will stand guard.”

Anduin stared at her, then furrowed his brows. “Are you sure?”

Yes, I’m sure. Now go.”

“ - Wait. Can we eat first?” The smell of the food was near-dizzying now, but Anduin was more worried about Wrathion’s hunger than his own. When was the last time the Black Prince had eaten? Wrathion, he knew, was a voracious eater, who inhaled food even quicker than the blond did. He must be starving.

Left seemed to understand. “I’ll get the food. Get the room and go upstairs.”

Anduin nodded. “Please get plain broth.”

“Broth.”

“Yes. And try to find some bandages, too, please – for his wounds.”

Left squinted at him, relented, then turned.

A thought occurred to Anduin as he bent his face again.

“Wait! Left, if you find some of the tea he likes, can you get that, too? The Lapsang Souchong I think they would have.” Wrathion favorited some sort of pomegranate tea Tong made him – he was so possessive of it he wouldn’t even allow Anduin to try it, proclaiming it “too rare to share” at one point, and scowling when Anduin had mocked him for clinging to the mug like a child with its toy – but the prince doubted they would sell anything like it here.

He looked back up when Left didn’t respond - but Left was gone, as if she had dispersed into the air like a specter. Anduin looked around quickly, momentarily forgetting to hide his face, and saw no sign of black leather nor green skin. None of the tavern customers looked alarmed, either, like they’d just seen someone disappear on the spot.

Anduin sighed loudly, shook his head, then went over to the Pandaren innkeeper Left had pointed out. Sometimes, he wondered just where Wrathion had found his Blacktalons. He knew the SI:7 was skilled, but the Black Prince’s agents were… something different.

“Excuse me.” Anduin said politely to get the Pandaren’s attention. His voice was muffled by the mask; not wanting to take an arm off of Wrathion he awkwardly tilted his shoulder up and managed to slide the mask down passed his mouth with some effort. The Pandaren’s face was still down as she sorted green apples twice the size of Anduin’s fist.

“Hm?” The Pandaren looked up cheerfully then and froze. Her eyes went a bit wider. “Oh. Ah. Hello.”

The blond was alarmed by her reaction – had he done something wrong? – but he realized it must have been the recognizable outfit. He wished he had his cloth, now that they were out of the mountains and out of danger – for now – but knew that the garb was, too, recognizable, and the leather get-up would have to do for now.

“May I please rent a room for the night?” He smiled at her, eager to show he wasn’t as brooding as the Agents were. “If you have one on the highest floor, that would be best.” Anduin didn’t want the commotion that would no doubt slowly rise in pitch downstairs to wake Wrathion.

The pandaren tilted her head at him. “I’ve never had one of you rent a room before!” She exclaimed, and her wariness dropped from her face. Anduin was relieved, and once again reminded why he enjoyed the pandaren people; they were so quick to look passed judgment.

The innkeeper looked down and shuffled through her apron. There was a faint jingling.

Only one bed, right?”

Anduin went to nod – then hesitated and shook his head. “Two.”

The pandaren only nodded and took her hand from her apron, her paw clutched around a key. “Alright! Well, you’re in luck. Top room is open.” She went to hand Anduin the key.

“Ah – if you could just - ” He shifted Wrathion gently then splayed out his fingers. Amused, the pandaren put the key in-between the crook of his fingers and he clutched it into a fist.

“Y’know, I had one of you folks cause a commotion a bit ago!” The pandaren went back to sorting the food. “Mighta’ got into some sorta’ scuffle by the way he was looking. He was hollering in the morning from the storeroom – hah! Someone had locked him in there.” She clucked her tongue. “Wouldn’t even tell me what happened. He just bolted. Dunno where. Anyway!” She smiled at him, then pointed towards the stairs. “Up on the very very top is your room. Door should be locked.”

Anduin smiled back at her. “Thank you.”

The blond headed towards the stairs. Wrathion groaned lowly.

“We’re almost there,” Anduin whispered, then started up the stairs – and winced. He regretted not having his cane, now; as he walked up, his right leg began to shake again, as it had on the cliff.

Anduin set his jaw and tried to look passed it, and leaned heavily on the bannister.

Just a couple more steps…

He rounded the last bend of stairs and the door was at the top. Anduin sighed, relieved, and fit the key in the door. He bumped it open with left hip and went inside, closing it behind them with his heel.

It wasn’t the largest room he’d slept in, but it was still comfortable. Two beds, large and plush, were pressed up at the far end of the wall, and a steady stream of fresh air, heavy with the smell of food, hurried in from the open, consecutive slots in the wood that encircled the entire room. A plain desk sat to the side.

Anduin went to one of the beds. Cautiously, gingerly, he unraveled his arms from Wrathion and set him down, sinking to his knees at the side of the bed so he could get on the dragon’s level.

Now he could finally start healing the Black Prince. Anduin was eager to, worried that Wrathion’s condition was deteriorating; the wounds he’d seen in the cave were bad, but now that he would have the chance to study them up close, he only assumed they’d look worse.

Wrathion groaned again and his rolled up wings went limp against his sides, sprawling out on the blankets. Anduin frowned and stroked the Prince’s head once.

“It would be easier for me to look at your wounds if you were human,” Anduin murmured. Wrathion did not respond; he only readjusted his angular head on the blankets the slightest amount and went still again. The Alliance prince frowned.

“I’ll try to make you feel better. I promise. But I really do need you to shift.”

Wrathion sighed. Smoke, thick and slow, enveloped his small form and spread out, elongating and widening along the bed with reaching, finger-like ends.

Anduin watched quietly. Usually the Prince’s transformation was quick, an afterthought, but now it was sluggish, strained, the smoke near the consistency of sludge. It was obviously taking Wrathion some effort.

Yet the smoke stilled after a long, tense moment - and dispersed.

Wrathion, in his human form, was laying on his back, his arms awkward at his sides as if he wasn’t sure what to do with them. His eyes were still fused shut. The Prince took a shaky breath, grimaced, revealing his sharpened teeth stained with his own blood, then went still again.

Anduin swallowed. Wrathion looked as bad as he had in the cave, if not worse. His outfit, so carefully crafted in its extravagance and its details so thorough, was ruined. Tears, splits, and blood marks were scattered along every inch of the dragon’s clothes.

The prince looked over Wrathion’s wounds, then. The bruise blooming along his right eye had extended down his cheek and up his temple, blotching his sable skin with mustard yellow and thick purple.

Wrathion’s breathing was worrisome as well; it was raspy, and the effort to take a breath on the dragon’s part was painfully obvious, for each inhale and exhale was a shudder, each with a certain hesitance about it. All the signs pointed to broken ribs, bones that were unable to be set.

Not like Wrathion’s sprained left wrist. That would be easy enough to heal, Anduin supposed.

But Wrathion’s right arm-…

Anduin’s eyes drifted down to it warily. He grimaced.

It was just as twisted as he had remembered; the dragon’s palm, which should have been face-down, was tilted sideways, nearly swiveled up to face the ceiling, thanks to the lower half of the split bones in the Prince’s forearm being forcibly turned around. The break itself, right in the middle of his lower arm, was also so displaced that the latter half of the broken forearm, the half that had been twisted, jut out, nearly breaking the skin and making Wrathion look like he had a second elbow.

Anduin wouldn’t be able to snap that back in place easily. He stared at it, clenching his jaw. He’d set a handful of bones before, but nothing as terrible as Wrathion’s arm.

The prince sighed through his nose and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. That injury would be the most difficult to tackle… as long as Wrathion didn’t have worse internal injuries that Anduin couldn’t see with his eyes.

The blond flicked his eyes over the other prince again, frustrated. The blood on the thin, fresher cuts had dried, at least – but the cuts themselves were still open. Anduin frowned. That was odd. They were small, and not too deep into the flesh; they should have closed during the hours of the flight.

He pushed aside some of the torn cloth against the dragon’s chest, eyeing the three deep claw marks slashes against the skin there. Those could use the bandages.

Anduin let go of the ruined shirt and flicked his gaze up to Wrathion’s face again. The great Black Prince looked so weak and pathetic that Anduin’s chest soured and twisted.

“Thank you,” Anduin said, grateful that Wrathion had forced himself to transform for him. Wrathion only made a low ‘mm’ in the back of his throat as a response.

Anduin leaned forward. He brushed the Prince’s black bangs from his face, then set his hand against the dragon’s forehead to check his temperature for signs of fever, which would be a flag for infection. The open cuts were worrisome.

Wrathion felt hot – but he was a dragon. He was always hot. Anduin dropped his hand.

The door creaked open. Anduin startled, instinctually moving his body so it blocked the Black Prince from view, but soon relaxed when he saw Left trudging towards him, food in hand.

She shoved the food and bandages at him. He smiled at her, a tinge nervous, then gestured towards the desk. “I’m sorry – could you put it over there? Thank you, Left.”

The orc muttered something unintelligible and did as he asked.

“Thank you, agai-”

“I’ll be guarding outside.”

The door slammed closed. Anduin slouched his shoulders.

At least the food was here. The prince got to his feet and limped over, his mouth watering, unbidden, at the rich smells of butter, seasonings, and tea.

He looked over the tray quickly, then opened up the top to a small black ceramic pot. Steam billowed out from its top; the broth he’d ask for Wrathion was inside, a gentle brown in color with shallots and thin onions sprinkled in for flavor. Anduin smiled, pleased, then look around for the tea -… there it was, off to the side, in a large white mug, near the pile of white bandages. Next to it was a covered plate of noodles.

Oh. Left had gotten him something, even though he hadn’t asked. The prince was touched at the gesture, but he would eat later.

Grabbing the pot of broth first, leaving its cover behind, as well as the roll of bandages, Anduin made his way back to the bed where Wrathion lay still, and sat on its side next to the Prince. The bed creaked gently underneath the added weight. Anduin tossed the roll of bandages to the side to use later.

Wordlessly, Anduin unlatched the large spoon from where it hung along the bowl’s side, attached by a thin chain, then leaned forward and patted the dragon’s face once.

“Wrathion, I have food.”

A hardly-audible groan.

Anduin scooted closer. He touched the dragon’s face again, more insistently, but not hard enough to harm him. “Wrathion. Food.”

Wrathion’s left eye slit open. The red glow, usually vibrant, was dull.

Anduin gestured with the spoon to the pot. “You have to eat. This will make you feel better.”

Wrathion stared at him blearily. His eye slowly looked down at the broth, then drifted back up to Anduin’s face again.

The Alliance prince scooped up the broth in the spoon. “I’m going to have to feed you, though… you can’t use your hands.”

Wrathion scrunched up his face and leaned his head back deep into the pillows.

The dragon tried to lift his left arm with the sprained wrist – maybe to prove Anduin wrong, the prince wasn’t quite certain - and it shook the moment it lifted from the bed. The dragon swallowed, held it up for a moment longer -… then winced and allowed it to fall back down again.

Wrathion scowled weakly and looked away. Anduin frowned, abandoned the spoon in the broth and cupped the dragon’s chin in his hand; he tilted Wrathion’s face up so that he could look at him.

The dragon stared back, a certain glowering wariness to his look, but underneath the expression Anduin could see pain and exhaustion deep in the glow of red and in the corners of his eye.

Wrathion did not pull away.

Anduin looked back at him hard. He was no stranger to the Black Prince’s great ego; he realized what this was about. Suddenly the Prince’s evasion to the Shrine of Seven Stars made sense as well.

“No one’s here to see you like this,” he said. “I promise.”

Wrathion hesitated. His eye flickered from Anduin to settle on the door behind the blond.

“Left’s even standing guard. It’s just you and me in here, Wrathion,” Anduin murmured. Outside was the sizzling of food, the far-away calls of the white hawks, and the muted talking of traders -… but that all fell away into static, silent noise. All the blond could focus on was Wrathion’s strained breathing, his hesitance, the way the breeze from the slots curled at his matted, bloodied hair.

Finally, the Black Prince slid his eye back to Anduin again. Anduin smiled, with all of the reassurance of a friend to be trusted. “No one will see but me-… and that shouldn’t bother you too much.”

Wrathion scoffed – but the moment he did a cough racked him, the slight huffing of breath even too much to do without causing his body to ache.

Anduin stiffened at the show of pain. The Light flickered instinctually into his fingertips, which still rested along the dragon’s jaw.

But there was no need for healing, not now; the cough left him, and Wrathion’s shoulders slouched.

It must have settled something for the dragon. Wrathion set his mouth in a thin frown and the vague sense of annoyance and defiance fell from his face; he just looked exhausted. He fixed Anduin with a lidded stare and nodded at the prince once, quick, giving his assent.

The Light misted away from Anduin’s fingers, and he smiled at Wrathion again. “It will make you feel better,” he said, as he dropped his hand from Wrathion’s jaw, before he refilled the spoon with the broth.

“Mm.”

Anduin brought the spoon to Wrathion’s dark lips. The dragon hesitated; the blonde quirked a brow at him.

With a low grumble the dragon parted his mouth, and Anduin tilted the tablespoon of broth in - … only for Wrathion to splutter and lurch forward as if to spit it out.

The blond quickly grabbed the dragon’s jaw, clacked his mouth closed and tilted his head back at angle, forcing him to swallow.

Wrathion slouched back onto the pillow again with a grimace. Anduin dropped his hand and refilled the spoon once more.

“That wasn’t too hard, was it?” The prince said, his smile twisting wryly. Wrathion glowered at him. “Just don’t be difficult.”

Wrathion said nothing, but managed to pile up enough strength to deepen his glare. Anduin grinned, muffled a laugh that threatened to escape him, and raised the spoon again.

Thankfully, after the first few difficult spoonfuls of Wrathion having trouble swallowing and Anduin having to tilt his head back for him, the dragon managed to relax himself enough to be able to eat without gagging and the broth was soon gone.

The ceramic spoon clacked against the empty bottom of the pot as Anduin set it back inside. He was glad that he’d managed to make Wrathion eat it in its entirety – if Anduin knew one thing, it was that food made those weak strong, even as something as simple as broth.

But for now, Wrathion’s eye was drooping; his head swayed from right to left and back again. Anduin bit back a grin. Certainly food made one stronger later, but a full stomach meant sleep now.

“Go to sleep, Wrathion,” Anduin said with a gentle laugh and then, after placing the empty bowl on the ground, leaned forward and began unlatching Wrathion’s ruined pauldrons from his shoulders. The Black Prince didn’t protest, only sighed and closed his eye, as Anduin lifted both of them off and set them to the side, then looped the leather sash up and off of the dragon, careful to slide it away from the broken ribs.

A low noise rumbled from the dragon’s throat, but he soon went still and, though his breath was still shaky, it settled into the deep repetition of sleep.

Good. He needed rest. Anduin rubbed at his eyes, yawned himself – he was exhausted - and suddenly remembered the tea. He looked over at the tray where the steam still rose from the cup. He would just have to give it to Wrathion when he woke up.

But now that Wrathion was asleep, Anduin could work at healing him. The small cuts along his skin and the large gashes across his chest he’d have to deal with first; all manner of bacteria could infect him.

Could dragons… get infections? Anduin sighed, readjusted his headband and brushed his own bangs from his face – though they just fell back down. Maybe Wrathion’s burning blood would scorch out any bacteria.

Maybe.

The Alliance prince waited a moment, then closed his eyes. Ignoring his aching stomach and tired body, Anduin began to center himself behind the shadow of his eyes. Maybe the blood would, maybe the blood wouldn’t -… but Anduin couldn’t afford to take any risks.

He had never healed someone in as terrible a condition as the Black Prince; it would take all of his concentration. Anduin would start off easy with the cuts, but Wrathion’s other wounds…

Could he even do it by himself?

Anduin frowned, and tried to think passed the sudden doubt flickering at the corners of his eyes. He was talented, confident, and good-hearted, and the Light came to him as easy as a breath, but he knew well that natural talent and affinity were nothing without experience, and Wrathion’s egregious wounds might even be too much for even Anduin.

The Alliance prince opened his eyes. The Light flickered back onto his hands, stretching across his palms, extending, warm, across his forearms. It might be too much, but he could still try.

Anduin leaned over, the Light trailing curls from his arms, and grabbed the thick bandages he’d tossed to the side of the bed. He unrolled a large trail from the ribbons, cut it at the end, and, slowly, swept his glowing palm over one of the bandage’s sides. The cloth radiated for a moment before dimming down.

Pleased with his work, the blond turned back to Wrathion. He unbuckled and lifted off the scaled tabard, placed it gently to the side, then pushed aside the ripped cloth of Wrathion’s shirt to get a wider angle at the terrible gashes. As gently as he could, placed the Light-enchanted bandages, the once-glowing side down, on the thick, ripe gashes against the Black Prince’s chest.

Wrathion inhaled sharply as Anduin pressed the bandages down into his flesh to make sure they would stick and stay. The blond paused, looked up warily, but saw that he had not awoken the dragon.

He went back to making sure the bandages were stable, then smiled brightly. Good – that should shield them from infection for now, and heal them at the same time, though albeit slower than real-time healing that Anduin was about to do with the smaller cuts.

But the gashes would have taken much more time and energy to heal… and the smaller cuts would be easier, though equally as worrisome.

Anduin placed his hands on the Black Prince’s face and began to heal, settling in for a long bout of concentration, while his food went cold.

—-

Sabellian had lost them.

He dove down one of the last slopes of the mountain, his claws curled up tight underneath him, and swept his head back and forth in a near frenzied-like motion. Smoke and the occasional bout of red flame gusted from his open, snarling mouth; the snow melted beneath him where he flew passed.

The dragon tilted back up to a parallel angle to the ground. Down in these lower mountains, snow was less prominent, and that human’s white gryphon would have flashed against the darker rock -… but Sabellian saw no feathers, no flicker of white flying away. His orange eyes burned.

With a frustrated snarl he slammed himself down on an outcrop of a cliff, the first mountain of the range; rocks flew off from the impact. Below him yawned the endless yellow plains that composed the rest of the Summit’s landscape.

His wings still splayed out, Sabellian let loose a gout of flame in to the air, so hot and angry that in the red were a dozen other intertwining colors: yellow, orange, green, even purple and black.

The dragon had been so – he slammed his clubbed tail into the side of the mountain, and the whole rock shook – close.

Sabellian hurled his tail into the rock again. A large slab of dark earth slid from the outcropping and plummeted to the ground.

The Black Prince, that stupid, worthless, whiny lizard, had been that close to telling him. And when he’d escaped Sabellian had been that close to grabbing them, from stopping their rescue.

Another explosion of fire shot from his maw.

If that equally stupid, little blond human hadn’t distracted him -

Sabellian snarled and his claws gripped the rock hard.

“Idiot,” he chided of himself, smoke hissing from his teeth.

He’d allowed himself to be lured in by that other prince. Allowed himself to think that the other prince was genuine. Sabellian should have ripped his head off right there, but no, he was too nervous to do that, wasn’t he? Too nervous that the moment he killed someone hear the Old Gods would find him, would throttle up his taste for killing… such senseless killing as he had done before…

Sabellian had planned to kill one person – one dragon, truly – and one dragon only, out of caution. And now that whelp was gone as quickly as a breeze.

Idiot. He shouldn’t have been cautious. He should have killed the human prince. When he cracked that human guard from the cliff at the Veiled Stair, only the regular blood-lust of battle, a blood-lust he already had from beating the Black Prince into the ground, was in his head. No whispers nor mutterings. Another, weak-boned human couldn’t have hurt.

But it was too late to scold himself now. The human had distracted him, and the Black Prince was gone now for it.

Sabellian snorted. His wings folded down, neat and tight against his body. The sharp throb from the arrows lodged in his chest and shoulder began to pain again as the heat of anger fell from Sabellian’s mood; he would have to deal with them in human form later, when he had the chance. He glanced down at the small shafts with a scowl.

It was frustrating – and altogether annoying – but he had found the Prince once, and he would find the Prince again -… and next time, he would not be so polite.

The dragon glanced down at muted sounds of alarm from the ground below. Someone had seen the fire, or perhaps had nearly been crushed by the rock that had fallen.

He didn’t want to be seen; he would allow the mortals to think that Wrathion was the last of their kind… for now.

Sabellian opened his wings and jumped into the current of air. He swiveled as he caught the buoyancy of the wind and shot up and across, into the deeper mountain ranges again, abandoning his fruitless search for gryphon and riders.

It didn’t take long with Sabellian’s great wings to take him to the the cave. He alighted heavily on the outcrop, and folded his wings against himself as he trudged inside. The dragon had not been back since he’d chased the escapees from it that morning.

Ahead, in the large entrance cavern, Nasandria sat in drake form– decidedly at a safe distance – near the still-shuddering body of Talsian. Sabellian eyed the sprawled out dragon, the slashes and bites and cuts Sabellian himself had afflicted, and saw how his chest still rose and fell despite how the blood loss should have killed him hours ago.

Nasandria looked up at him as he entered the cave. The elder dragon ignored her. Wordlessly, he approached his dying son and glanced down at him without the slightest flicker of emotion in his orange eyes.

The strange energies that had curled from the dragon in his frenzy had long dissipated. Sabellian had never seen such chaotic smoke before; the mutterings had been something of the Old Gods, but the smoke from Talsian’s eyes and mouth, the way Talsian’s natural talons had warped into long, demonic, glowing claws? Intriguing and disturbing.

Talsian saw him. His head lay on its side; the drake flicked his yellow eye up at Sabellian as the elder dragon loomed above him. His jaw opened and closed like a choking fish. His whole body shuddered.

M-my blood… hungers…” came the shaking hiss from Talsian’s mouth in a voice not his own, a voice deep, a grumble, a growl, the very rumbles of the forgotten earth. The drake’s eye flickered, and for the slimmest moment, a clearness came to him; the gloss in his gaze turned desperate, begging, as it turned towards his silent father.

The strange smoke began to curl from the corner of the drake’s eyes again and the lucidity began to vanish. Talsian shook again. “Pain… exquisite… pain…

Sabellian placed a paw calmly on the drake’s heaving side. He had seen enough.

His snake-like neck bent, his jaws grabbed the drake’s head, and with a near-gentle twist of his mouth Sabellian snapped his son’s neck with a clear crack.

The body spasmed, then went limp. Sabellian dropped the head from his teeth and Talsian’s horns clacked against the stone floor.

Nasandria was staring at him, wide-eyed. “We could have - “

“We could have nothing, Nasandria. He couldn’t be helped.” Sabellian took his paw off of the stilled drake’s chest. The other drake glanced down at her dead brother, then back up at the elder dragon. She nodded once, slowly, but said nothing, her eyes still wide.

Together the black dragons burned the corpse. It took time – even in death black dragons hides were fairly resistant to fire – but after a while the red flames began to devour the body, sending ghostly flames to highlight the cave’s dark shadows, as graceful as a dance.

Sabellian sat hunched, staring idly at the burning corpse, at the cave mouth. Nasandria sat next to him. The flames’ heat was soft against their hard scales.

“What are we supposed to do now?” Nasandria said above the crackle and pop of the fire. “Talsian’s dead. Wrathion is gone. He hardly told us anything.” She shuffled her wings together. “Maybe we should just-”

“What? Go home? Allow ourselves to be brushed aside like beaten dogs?” Sabellian snapped. His eyes had not left the corpse, which had disappeared among the roar of the flames. The stench was overwhelming, but still he did not move. He needed to watch. “I think not. The ‘Black Prince is weak. We will find him again.” The elder dragon gripped his claws against the stone and it whined beneath him.

The frustration rose again in his chest; he had had the element of surprise when visiting his little brother upon the Veiled Stair, but now that he’d lost the whelp and Wrathion knew he was here, the tiny snake would be hatching plans and schemes to protect himself and harm Sabellian.

Sabellian was calmed by the fact, however, that Wrathion was weak, near-comatose. He would not be planning anything for a while-… giving Sabellian himself a chance to think.

He thought back to the human prince and hissed. “A human prince was the downfall. Ludicrous!” Sabellian murmured. “His friend. How does that insignificant, stuck-up hatchling have a friend?” Smoke plumed from Sabellian’s nose. It was ridiculous. Absurd. How stupid did the human have to be to follow the dragon so blindly? The elder dragon snorted again, without humor.

“Oh, the Black Prince is no doubt a son of Deathwing if he has such a devout follower,” he mumbled. “Sinestra or no, his purple coloration and cleverness is-”

Sabellian paused. A thought had occurred to him.

“That lying human-child will be with him. Hah! He was stupid enough to tell me who he was. Little fool.”

Nasandria turned her head and frowned at him. “Just because we know who he is -”

“An Alliance prince will run back to his pride of lions, Nasandria.”

Nasandria tilted her head – then understood. “Ah. But we can’t just burst into an Alliance -”

“We will need to plan accordingly.” Sabellian said. He was once again glad, at least, that Wrathion had been reduced to a whimpering, bloody lizard; it gave Sabellian time to scheme his own plots.

They said nothing for a time, yet Sabellian saw something was bothering his daughter by the way she kept shifting her weight and stretching her wings. It became annoying.

What, Nasandria? Say what’s on your mind before I get angrier at your incessant moving about!”

The drake locked her jaw.

“How did Talsian… get like that?” She asked. “He… he seemed fine before the Stair.”

Sabellian nodded. The drake had seemed fine; he had not muttered in his sleep or stared off into space, unseeing, nor had a sudden thirst for blood. It had worried the elder dragon, too, wondering how Talsian had fallen into corruption so quickly and dramatically… though the answer was clear when it had come to him when he had helped chain the drake to the wall.

“His wounds weakened him, Nasandria – not the ones I gave him, no. The one the human guard did.” The fire was dying now; black dragons’ flames were quick and brutal, hotter even than the red dragons’. It had not taken long for Talsian’s body to burn beneath it.

“I can only imagine that is why - his guard was down. The corruption was able to find him, then.” For the first time in the conversation he turned his great head to look down at the smaller drake. “And we must be cautious ourselves.”

Nasandria nodded. Sabellian glanced back to the fire. He was regretting only bringing two other drakes with him… especially now that one was dead. The dragon had not expected this charade to be so annoyingly complicated.

Yet did he have time to send for back-up from Outland? The flight from the Blasted Lands to Pandaria had taken a great deal of time, even with hard flying, and by the time more dragons arrived Wrathion could be clear-headed and ready to hide again – and this time, Sabellian had no robotic whelp to track him down with.

He glanced sidelong at Nasandria.

The drake was fierce; it was why he had brought her. Certainly he could have brought Samia, his last remaining fully-grown daughter, the only one who had survived Gruul’s rampage on the elder dragons of Sabellian’s brood, but he had needed someone to watch over the family while he was gone.

Yet Nasandria’s fierceness may not be needed now – not yet. Sabellian had already lost Talsian; perhaps he could use his daughter for a… better advantage.

“Do you know where the Badlands are, Nasandria?” He asked with the nonchalance of a casual conversation. The drake shook her head. “The middle of the Eastern Kingdoms. Not an entirely scenic place – it will no doubt remind you of the dryness of Blade’s Edge.”

Nasandria looked at him. “Why are you asking?”

Sabellian stood. The fire was a mere smoldering flicker now; only Talsian’s ashy skeleton remained. In respect, the large dragon bent his head in a deep bow towards the remains, his nose brushing the floor, before he straightened again.

“I will continue this charade on Pandaria alone. You, my daughter, will be going to the Badlands.”

Nasandria gawked at him. “What? That’s – no! I will stay with you, father -”

“It wasn’t an open discussion,” Sabellian snapped at her, then turned and walked from the cave, the afternoon sun shining bright against his reflective scales.

Nasandria bowed to Talsian then followed him. “Why the Badlands? Surely you… you need me here -”

“Not now. If the little human-child will take his ‘friend’ to a fort, then our surprise attacks mean nothing in the way of stone, guarded walls. It will have to be done as a scheme… not particularly violent.” He stretched out his wings. “And so one dragon is easier to hide than two.” Sabellian looked at her critically. “You must have heard him whimpering about the Badlands when I was… interrogating him.”

“Well. Yes.”

“Titan technology. Intriguing, isn’t it?” Sabellian looked out among the mountains. “What created us will fix us. I suppose it makes sense… but enough of my rambling; I’m even boring myself. You will go to the Badlands and you will investigate the Black Prince’s origins. If this does not end well for me, then at least you might find something that might save our Flight. The Reds found the technology there – surely there’s still some remainder of what they did to him left.”

“And if there isn’t?”

“Well. Then you will have had a nice tour of the Eastern Kingdoms.”

Nasandria began to glare at him, but Sabellian turned his head and snarled. He was in no mood for back-talk today. The drake bent her head submissively, evading his eyes.

“Do we have an understanding?”

“Yes, father.”

“Good. First we must find the little automatons at the Veiled Stair again. You can contact me then as you make your journey.”

Nasandria, at least, looked the tiniest bit relieved at having some way of communication. “Of course.”

Sabellian lifted his wings and took off into the air, the snow billowing out from underneath his feet. Nasandria was quick to follow.

The two turned in the direction of the Veiled Stair once more, and disappeared among the high clouds, away from the eyes of unknowing mortals.

—-

A loud crack of thunder woke Anduin from his sleep.

He jolted up, eyes wide, as the tavern shook from the boom of sound. The entire room seemed to rattle underneath him.

Oh. It was a thunderstorm; the heavy drumming of the rain hitting the roof gave it away. The prince relaxed, gently easing down his tense shoulders, then glanced out at the window slots.

The slim look-out they’d given of the Valley was utterly blinded out by the heavy torrent of rain; only a small amount of it had managed to get inside of the open room, collecting a small puddle near the sill. Anduin supposed it must have been from the sloping roof, typical of the Pandaren’s architecture, that kept the water away.

Anduin turned back – then realized with a start he was still at the side of Wrathion’s bed, his arms sprawled out against the dragon’s shoulders; he must have fallen asleep when healing the Black Prince. Somehow he’d managed not to slip from his awkward swiveled sitting position on the side – his hips began to prickle as the feeling came back to them - but his bangs were stuck against his forehead as if his head had been face down.

Anduin tore himself back, his face hot with embarrassment. Wrathion hadn’t seem to have woken at all, not from Anduin falling asleep on him nor from the storm; he was in the same position Anduin had remembered last seeing him in, his head and torso propped up against the pillows.

Healing Wrathion’s open wounds had been.. more difficult than Anduin had hoped. The cuts had closed sluggishly, seaming back together with a snail’s pace while the little wounds should have been flowing quickly together, a practice Anduin had done dozens of times before, easily.

One cut therefore ended up taking the energy of five. It had been frustrating. Even when he had managed to heal one, it left an ugly fallow bruise, as thin as the cut had been, and after painstakingly healing one of such bruises Anduin had thought it best to leave his energy for the other open wounds rather than drain it on fixing Wrathion’s appearance.

No wonder Anduin had fallen asleep. He hadn’t slept or eaten – the noodles still sat cold - since leaving Lion’s Landing, and the healing work was difficult, even in Anduin’s skilled hands.

Anduin stretched up his arms, squeezing his eyes shut and holding back a yawn. Another shake of thunder rippled out from the storm; the ceramic pot, still on the floor, clattered to its side.

The blond ignored it. He clasped his hands together, rested them on his lap and leaned forward to look over Wrathion. He’d managed to heal the wounds on the dragon’s face, neck, and the upper half of his arms –… if heal was the right word, he thought bitterly, eyeing the thin bruises.

Anduin sighed, frustrated again with himself, loud through his nose. The only thing that made sense about the cuts’ conditions was that the weapon that made them (Anduin supposed a dagger, thanks to the slimness of the slashes) was either imbued with some sort of demonic enchantment or was made from one of the rarer metals that caused different effects on the skin.

Anduin guessed the latter. He brushed a thumb over one of the curdled-red bruises across Wrathion’s cheek, sill frustrated but gentle with his touch, and frowned thoughtfully. Velen had taught him that about the metals. Anduin dropped his hand and brushed his bangs, still stuck to his forehead, across his headband.

Much of Azeroth’s metals were relatively “harmless,” and only dealt damage from their sharpened sides and from different enchantments. There was Saronite – the mere thought made Anduin’s skin crawl – which was bubbled with the blood of Yogg’saron and caused madness when in direct, lengthy contact… yet Velen had not mentioned anything about the metal making healing difficult.

That metal, Anduin remembered then, was Fel Iron, which was warped with demonic energies. The ancient draenei had patiently explained how even the slightest of demonic presence in a wound would make it difficult for the Light to heal it – for demonic meant Chaos, the Light’s direct opposition. And Fel Iron, he’d said, was a cursed and fearsome metal for it.

And Fel Iron was from Outland.

It was the only thing that made sense. The dragons were from Outland… surely they had weapons made of Fel Iron.

Anduin glared at the cuts. Of course it had to be the cursed metal. It couldn’t have been easy.

He glanced down at Wrathion’s left arm, trying to force the frustration to billow off. Oh – here was some good news. Anduin smiled. The cuts that had remained when Anduin had fallen asleep had scabbed over.

The tavern shook again. Wrathion sighed loudly, his very lungs sounding like they were shaking as well, then stilled again.

Anduin readjusted the bandage over the dragon’s chest, making sure it was stable, before standing. Gently, gently, he slid the thick, fluffed blankets from underneath the Prince’s torso and put them on top of him, careful not to press it down across his broken chest. The Prince was deep in sleep and did not notice.

Anduin stared at him. At least in sleep Wrathion might be able to escape some pain.

For a moment the prince was tempted to continue healing… but he dismissed the idea. It would be a waste of time. As much as he wanted his friend to feel better, even Anduin Wrynn had his limits, especially when he hadn’t slept or eaten and his energy was sparking out.

Anduin glanced at the empty bed to the side. Before sleeping, though, he had to take care of something else.

The creaking of the floorboards underneath his feet was muffled by the heavy rain as Anduin made his way to the closed door. His leg protested; he ignored it.

“Left?” He said, lowly, as he opened the door and peeked his head out.

The orc was standing on the step below the door, her hand clutched on the scuff golden crossbow, her eyes trained down the stairs. The weapon was loaded and ready.

Her eyes did not move to look at him, but she did give a grunt of greeting to the blond prince.

Anduin smiled at her, eased his way out into the stairway and closed the door behind him with a gentle click. The thunder grumbled outside again. The orc appeared unphased; Anduin hoped, again, that the dragon inside the room would continue to be, too.

“I have a suggestion,” the prince began, and frowned as the orc’s eyes hardened. “Please, you have to hear me out.”

Left finally turned her head to him. “What is it?”

Anduin straightened his back, though allowed himself to lean his right shoulder on the door behind him for balance. His cane was still with the supplies that had been on the gryhon’s back.

He didn’t smile, but looked at the orc with earnest. “We can’t stay here, and we can’t go back to the Tavern.” The orc stared at him. “But we can’t keep moving Wrathion around from place to place, either. His wounds would just get worse. He needs a place to rest.”

“What’s your point?” Left asked with a grumble.

“We could go to Lion’s Landing.” He pressed on quickly as the orc began to glare. “I know it sounds … biased, but it would be safe, and I would have all the supplies I needed to heal him. There’s guards everywhere - … especially trying to follow me around… and Sabellian couldn’t possibly want to try to attack an Alliance keep by himself.” The more he spoke the more it made sense. Where else did Left think to take her Prince?

The bodyguard squinted at him hard, her tusks going lopsided as she frowned. The thunderstorm outside groaned, and the rain crushing against the roof above had become a relaxing static noise in the background of their conversation.

Left glanced at the door behind Anduin, then back at the blond.

“No one could know he was there,” she said, finally. “If the Horde knew that the Black Prince was staying in an Alliance keep, they’d be insulted. Some champions were annoyed enough at having you being a guest at the Tavern and under His Majesty’s protection.”

Anduin nodded. He was quick to remember the lingering, sidelong glances from some of the Horde champions who visited the black dragon, and then the full-on glares from others.

“I know. But it’d be nice to return the favor of playing the host,” Anduin said with a small smile. Left grunted.

“This isn’t about favors. The Prince is careful to remain neutral. He pushed his luck with you – like I just said.” She looked annoyed.

“But you have to agree it makes sense, going to Lion’s Landing,” Anduin said, raising a brow at the orc. He knew it made sense; his comment was not a question.

“Mm.” Again her eyes flicked to the door then to Anduin. “… Fine. We’ll go to Lion’s Landing. But if anyone finds out about the Prince – a simple guard, your father – I will have your head.”

Anduin had to bite back a smile. Yes! He’d convinced her. He nodded at her quickly. “I won’t let anyone find out.” He was good at that sort of thing… though something sour twisted at the back of his throat. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to lie to his father about anything.

Though he doubted it.

He turned to go back in the room – but hesitated, glancing back to Left.

“Left?”

“What?”

“Why are you doing this?” He rephrased his question, realizing it was vague. “I mean – why are you working for Wrathion?”

Left stared at him. Her gloved hand tightened slightly on the trigger of the crossbow. She said nothing for a long time, though the air in the slim stairway became heavier.

“Even orcs like me grow tired of war, little prince,” she said, finally. “Wrathion’s promised a world unlike Azeroth has seen, and I will stand by his side till my death until his dream is achieved.”

Anduin frowned at her. He’d assumed, maybe, that he was giving the Blacktalons gold, just as he was luring in his champions initially with promises of enchanted gems and other things to augment their strength.

But Left seemed so genuine…

And Wrathion had always spoken so genuinely about a world of peace – a united world – that Anduin had believed him utterly, despite the fact they always disagreed with how to go about making a world like the one the dragon spoke of. He’d always assumed the Blacktalons didn’t necessarily agree with him, that gold was on their minds, but…

His tired mind began to protest. He needed sleep; he’d think about this later.

“Goodnight, Left,” Anduin said, and went inside the room, closing the door behind him.

He was so tired that his stumble to the other free bed next to the Black Prince’s was not just from his bad right leg.

The blond flopped face-down on the plush Pandaren bed, unstrapped his shoulder-pads and stripped off his skin-tight shirt, and wrapped the covers tight around him lazily. He turned his face sideways in the dragon’s direction to keep an eye on him as the rain poured outside; the thunderstorm seemed to be rolling away, for the next lightning strike sounded more mute, a low annoyed grumble compared to the fierce explosions from the moments before.

Wrathion hadn’t moved. Anduin sighed deeply, closed his eyes, and went to sleep the moment his eyes saw darkness.

—-

Wrathion was cold.

And it was very, very dark.

Muggy flashes of images went bright in his mind’s eye before curling away like smoke seconds later, only to be replaced by another vision as vague as the last. The quick successions, shifts, flickers of colors and scenes… it was disorienting, dizzying, and he wanted to make it stop.

But he couldn’t. There were images of sharp teeth, a golden disc, broken runestones. Orange eyes, then blue. The edge of a shimmering wing, mountains like needles, a toothy mouth full of lava.

And he was cold. So cold…

—-

It was early morning.

Anduin had gotten up, dressed, and had finally eaten the cold noodles from the night before. Wrathion was still sound asleep, covered so tightly by the large beige Pandaren blankets only his head and shoulders stuck out almost comically from the fluff.

A heavy knocking echoed from the door. Anduin glanced over, the last mouthful of noodles in his mouth.

“Get out here! We’re leaving in five minutes!” Came Left’s muffled yell from beyond the wood. The blond swallowed, set down the empty bowl and readjusted his headband for the third time before standing up from the side of his bed.

“Alright, Wrathion, it’s time to get up,” he said with a yawn, rubbing the back of his hand over his eyes. He went over to the Black Prince and peeled back the blankets slowly. The blond had checked him immediately upon waking up fifteen minutes ago, bleary-eyed. The fallow bruises remained, but Wrathion’s dark skin had become slightly ashen in color. He hadn’t had too much time to think about it before Left had knocked on the door for the first time and yelled at him to get ready.

Anduin frowned. Wrathion was shaking slightly, as he had in the cave – but it wasn’t cold in the room. The morning air was light and warm.

Instant concern bloomed sharp in the back of Anduin’s throat and, brushing Wrathion’s hair from his face he set his hand against the dragon’s forehead as he had done the night before -

And tore his hand back immediately, eyes wide. Wrathion wasn’t hot. He was freezing.

“Time’s up! I’m getting the gryphon. Meet me outside in two minutes!” Left again, but Anduin hardly heard her. Why was Wrathion so cold?

Cautiously he extended his hand and placed it once more against the dragon’s forehead, then down at his jaw. He was so cold and clammy to the touch.

This – this couldn’t be a fever. Anduin’s mind raced. A body made a fever when its temperature rose as the antibodies fought the infection.

But that was with humanoid bodies. Wrathion’s regular draconic heat would have caused a bodily shutdown in most mortals. It must have been different for dragons.

But Anduin Wrynn had no idea about dragon health. Was this cold temperature a sign of an infection? Was it something else altogether? He glanced down at the scabbed-over cuts on Wrathion’s left arm – and his mouth went dry. The cuts were swollen, near green in color.

Wrathion’s body hadn’t healed itself at all. The cuts looked infected. If Anduin hadn’t fallen asleep -

Anduin took his hand off of the dragon and ran it over his own face. He tried to calm down, but the frustration at himself, at believing those cuts on the arm were healed, that he’d fallen asleep, that he didn’t know enough about his own friend’s physicality to realize what was going on was building a deep-seated panic in the pit of his chest.

Maybe he could wake the dragon, at least. If they – if they got to Lion’s Landing, where there was more than enough solvents, healing herbs, and other healing supplies…

For the third time Anduin felt the dragon’s temperature. Wrathion continued to shake.

“Wrathion?” He asked, lowly, sending a quick prayer to the Light that this time, unlike in the cave, the dragon would wake quickly and shift into his dragon form without stalling.

To Anduin’s surprise Wrathion opened his good eye instantly. He locked it onto Anduin. The red had been dull last night, but this morning it was hardly glowing at all.

Anduin forced a smile, hiding away his concern. “We’re going. I can’t carry you like that,” he said, gesturing to Wrathion’s body. The regular snark was in the blond’s voice, but it sounded shaky; he hoped the dragon wouldn’t catch on to his anxiety or frustration.

“I’m very cold,” Wrathion muttered.

It was the first thing he’d said since the flight yesterday. Anduin stared at him, then nodded. “I know. But I’ll try to keep you warm on the flight.”

The prince was expecting him to have to keep goading the dragon to shift…

But Wrathion groaned suddenly and the smoke enveloped him with a twirl. Now a whelp, the Black Prince slouched his head against Anduin’s arm and groaned again.

Anduin scooped him up, not giving him the chance to shift back into human form again, making sure to grab Wrathion’s ruined pauldrons as well as his scaled tabard that he’d taken off last night and slinging them over his shoulder before heading downstairs and outside to the stables with a heavy, burning limp. The blond tried hard not too get too anxious. But Wrathion’s scales were cold, even through Anduin’s leather clothes, and the way the dragon had shifted so suddenly… it was unnerving.

And Anduin didn’t know how to heal it.

Left was standing beside the white gryphon. The beast’s injured leg was healed; a heavy bandage was wrapped tight up and around her paw.

The orc must have seen Anduin’s concern on his face.

“What?” Her eyes glanced down to the whelp, then up at Anduin. The sun was just rising, sending a gentle yellows and pinks across the clear sky, and not many people, not even in the farming community, were up this early, not yet; the prince hadn’t thought to hide the dragon from view as he had before.

“I think he – I think he might have an infection,” Anduin said, slowly, unsure. The orc narrowed her eyes.

“You think?” She grabbed him by the collar and swung him up on the gryphon’s back as if he weighed nothing. Left hopped up in front of him and grabbed the reins.

“He’s freezing. I just – I don’t know enough about dragons to know what’s going on. Do you?” He was loath to admit it. He held on to the orc’s side as the gryphon jostled herself to a running start, her limp only slight, before taking off into the air.

Left turned her in the direction of the south; Lion’s Landing was a couple hours ride away. Surely Wrathion could hold for that long…

“No. I don’t.” Left glanced back at the Prince, eyed him cautiously, then turned back to face the front again.

“He never told you about anything like-?”

“I just said I didn’t know.”

Anduin went quiet. Maybe Wrathion would be able to tell him once they reached the Alliance fort.

Hopefully.

—-

“That’s it, up ahead!”

Anduin was relieved to finally see the white and blue pillars appear from the muggy haze of Krasarang along the coast. He was burned to a slight pink in his skin that showed from the high sun, and parched from the terrible heat.

But he didn’t quite care about that. What he cared about was that they could finally stop and Anduin could figure out what was wrong with the quivering, ever-cooling dragon who hadn’t moved in his arms since they’d left Halfhill.

“Gryphon riders ahead.” Left said. Anduin craned his head over her shoulder. Dozens of war-riders circled the bustling fort. Many of them were Wildhammer, whose skills with a gryphon were legendary; Anduin, Left, and Wrathion would be spotted soon.

“They’ll recognize my gryphon, but -” the prince paused. Idiot! He hadn’t thought of Left being an orc. “Uhm – perhaps we should sneak in. I know a good place to.”

You know a place to sneak in.” Before they reached the beach, Left angled the gryphon to a gentle dive and landed her right on the edge of the thick, ancient forest.

“Yes,” Anduin said. Her doubt in him was starting to become annoying. Why did everyone always have to doubt him-…? But the blond shook his head and scrunched his eyes closed, focusing, before opening them again. He didn’t need to worry about that now. He just needed to get back to his room in the fort.

“Lead the way, then, prince,” Left grumbled.

The beach had come to a standstill in the never-ending skirmishes between the Horde and Alliance outposts along the coast. It was a lucky break; they didn’t have to worry about being hit by cannonballs or spells as Anduin carefully instructed Left where to go, creeping the gryphon behind the towers then to the stable. No one saw them. Even with Anduin’s strenuous instructions, he found it… too lucky. Perhaps Left was using some of the Blacktalon charm; he’d suspected the rogues had to use some sort of magic to disappear so easily into thin air.

“Alright, we’ll go on foot from here,” Anduin murmured. Left nodded, and the three eased off of the mount. “She’ll find her stall.” The bandage would be noticed, and the prince would be questioned, but he could worry about that later. “Now we just need to make it into the courtyard. There’s another entrance behind the keep that some of the workers use.”

The blond had found it during a walk around the Keep, after being driven near-stir crazy at having forced to stay in bed because of his leg all day, and had begun to use it to sneak out from his bodyguards’ noses when they weren’t looking, like he’d done the day before when going to visit the Black Prince and finding the Tavern destroyed.

It was better than mind-controlling them. He didn’t want to do that again.

They made their way through the courtyard then, ducking behind and staying quiet in the shadows, their black outfits blending in with the dark, as guards walked to and fro, before making it to the entrance. Anduin went first, then Left, and the floorboards creaked underneath them as they made their way up to the highest level of the fort that was set aside for the King, his son, and other higher officials.

Gently, Anduin eased open the door, looked both ways, and saw the hallways were empty. He gestured to Left behind him, walked with light steps to his room -

And opened the door quickly, let Left in, and shut it closed.

He went to the bed immediately and set the whelp down.

“Left – get him in human form and all the blankets around him. He needs to keep any heat he has.” A tone of authority had come into the prince’s voice.

Left nodded. Anduin went over to his dressed, pulled out his extra set of cloth garb, and went into the bathroom to change. It was nice to finally be out of the skin-tight leather; it had done its job, but it was woefully uncomfortable. He wondered how rogues and other adventurers wore it all the time non-stop.

Anduin went back out, adjusting his headband, and was glad to see Left had done what he’d asked. Wrathion was in human form again and covered up tight with blankets… and still shaking.

“I’ll need to go downstairs and find some herbs that stem infections.” It had to be an infection. What else could it have been? At least the herbs and other poultices the healers of the army kept in the overflowing storerooms might help; Anduin himself had not quite gotten that far along in his healing lessons with Velen to understand how to cure diseases… he understood how to set a bone, how to heal an open wound, but cleansing infections?

Especially a dragon’s infection?

“Stay here,” Anduin said. He had to hurry. Wrathion was loosing body heat by the hour and every minute they stood talking he could be worsening. Left nodded, and Anduin turned and exited the room, remembering to grab his cane which he’d slid off of the gryphon’s saddle, and made his way to the storerooms below, hoping his father, who may have been in the next room, did not hear his footsteps.

—-

“Left.”

The guard looked up. Wrathion was freezing. Why was it so cold? Why was he so cold?

And his whole head was dizzy; it felt like it’d be dumped into a vat of ice and shaken.

Sabellian – Sabellian had made him this way. He would have been angry if he could feel passed the ever-present pain, the chill, the agony.

Sabellian. He needed to kill Sabellian.

“Left.” His voice was a groan, a rasp. Was that his voice?

“Yes, my Prince?”

He needed to make Sabellian – he needed to make Sabellian pay. He needed - he needed to make Sabellian hurt. Yes. That was it. He had to make him hurt like Wrathion himself was hurting.

“Those Blacktalons. I sent them before Sabellian came. For the drake I saw.” Oh, he could barely speak without his lungs screaming at him. He just wanted the pain to stop. He wanted to go to sleep and not wake up for a very long time. But he had to tell his guard this. He had to make Sabellian hurt.

“… You mean the ones you sent to Blade’s Edge, my Prince?”

“Yes!” Oh, good, she remembered. “Go send more. To Blade’s Edge, Left. Make them. Make them hurt.”

He didn’t see Left nod. The agony was escalating with every word he spoke.

He wanted to sleep. His shoulders slouched, and the darkness was quick to overcome him.

—-

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