The message from Shaw was vague, but then again - they usually were. Just a written time and a location to meet. No signature or anything. Anduin only knew it came from the spymaster because he recognized the handwriting.
They met in Old Town, in a crummy bar without a name that was far too crowded. Anduin kept his hood firmly up as he walked through the crowd, ignoring any curious glances. He knew that at least five of the drunken men in the room were actually members of his personal guard, ready to jump in should anything untoward happen. Anduin nodded at one, who raised his drink in response. A perfectly normal interaction between two perfectly normal individuals.
Anduin slid into the seat across from Shaw. The man was looking a bit worse for wear. His eyes were dark with grief and guilt, and the remnants of his time as a prisoner of the legion were marked on his skin.
There was no formal exchanging of titles here, and Anduin would have no part of anyway. He had known Shaw since he was a child, and liked to consider the man his friend. But Shaw had been stiff and awkward since he returned, and Anduin knew that the man felt a heavy guilt knowing the Legion planted false intel using his face - intel that had gotten his father killed.
"Mathias." Anduin greeting him, "How are you?"
Shaw grunted, "As well as can be expected I suppose. S'good to be back home."
Anduin nodded, waving off a serving girl with a shirt a bit too low cut. He looked back at his friend, "Any particular reason you wanted to meet here?"
"Fancied a drink." The man mumbled, and Anduin got the sense he was already somewhat drunk. He looked around the room and hoped that at least one of the people here was a fellow rogue, looking out for him. He knew that rogues were oddly protective of their own and he doubted the man would be here alone. "I have something that might interest you."
"What is it?" Anduin asked, his eyebrows furrowed.
Shaw straightened up, leaning forward, "I was going through my papers, seeing what that fel-forsaken bastard had messed up, when I found something interesting coming from Lunarfall."
"Lunarfall?" Anduin wrinkled his nose in surprise, "What's going on there? I thought Draenor was quiet."
"It is." Shaw nodded, "This was something of a more personal note. Something your father had asked of us."
"My father?" Anduin swallowed a lump that had risen in his throat. He shook his head of any unbidden thoughts and went back to the situation at hand, "What did my father want in Lunarfall?"
"He wanted our agents in Draenor to look out for a black dragon." Shaw continued.
Anduin felt his throat seize up, and he looked up with wide eyes, "What?!"
He spoke a little loudly and Shaw gave him a reprimanding look as several patrons of the bar looked at them. Anduin winced and they both stayed quiet for a few moments until their attention was lost and the patrons went back to their own conversations.
"As I was saying." Shaw continued, his voice low, "Your father wanted us to find information about the black dragon known as Wrathion."
"I-I know." Anduin cleared his throat, struggling to keep any emotion off his face, "He's still wanted in connection to what happened at Garrosh's Trail."
"I mean outside of that." Shaw countered, "He wanted us to keep it quiet and relay the information back to him, and only him. I believe…" Shaw paused and looked a bit worried, like he was about to say something inappropriate, "I believe he wanted any information kept away from Lady Proudmoore."
"Jaina?" Anduin blinked, "But why?"
Shaw looked at him with something like pity, "Oh Anduin. You can try to keep your secrets from everyone else, but I think you know me better than that."
Anduin swallowed. Of course Shaw would know. There was no way his father would have left him at the Tavern with only a handful of guards. Anduin had no doubt that there had been SI:7 agents swarming the steps where the tavern lay. But he had thought he'd been careful when it came to his…interactions, with the Black Prince.
Apparently not careful enough.
"You know." Anduin choked out, his face falling.
Shaw nodded, "Yes."
"Did….did my father know?"
Shaw paused for a moment, looking a bit lost before shrugging, "We never told him, if that's what you're asking. Believe it or not our job wasn't to parlay every aspect of your personal life to the King. My agents were just meant to keep you safe from harm, and we believed that the Dragon didn't mean you any significant harm."
"Well…" Anduin sighed, wishing that he'd accepted the ale from the server, "We're all wrong sometimes."
"I think he suspected." Shaw continued without comment, "Or at least believed you as friends. Which is why I think he wanted to be the one to bring him in. I think he thought that Lady Proudmoore might have her judgement a tad clouded when it came to anything, or anyone, related to Garrosh Hellscream."
Well he had that right. Even now, long after the Warchief's death, she still refused to work with the Horde. He hadn't seen her since she stormed out of the Keep following his Father's death, but there were rumours she had returned to Kul Tiras. He tried not to think about it too much. The truth was, despite their differences of opinion, he still missed her terribly.
"I'm guessing you got some information then?" Anduin asked rubbing his forehead.
"More so then that." Shaw pulled out what Anduin assumed was the missive from Lunarfall. "They found him."
Anduin's eyes shot up, looking at Shaw with disbelief. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, a dangerous amount of hope building in his chest, threatening to choke him if he opened his mouth.
"They have him in custody." Shaw continued, "Have had him for months really. That Dreadlord must've gotten this just after I was taken, it's been sitting in my office ever since."
"I…" Anduin swallowed, trying to keep himself under control, "Why are you telling me this here…?"
Shaw closed his eyes, looking at the table, his fingers tracing the grains in the wood, "I've known you since you were very young Anduin. You've always been a good man - you've accepted me back as your spymaster, despite what I've done-"
"You haven't done anything." Anduin argued, shaking his head, "What happened wasn't your fault."
"I was sloppy." Shaw sighed, "I was overconfident and underestimated my enemy. I should have known better. I should never have been caught in the first place. Perhaps you don't blame me, but I will find fault with myself until the day I die. Varian was more than my king, he was my friend…" Shaw grabbed his ale and took a long swing of it, wiping his mouth. But Anduin could still see his lips tremble slightly, "You've been very kind, and this is the least I could do to repay your kindness. Nobody else knows about this besides me and you and a handful of people at Lunarfall."
"What are you saying?" Anduin asked, his voice thick from Shaw's words.
"You're King now." Shaw pointed out, "Garrosh is dead, all of Azeroth is focused on fighting the Legion. If you wanted a better time to….pardon, the Black Prince, it would be now."
"Pardon him?" Anduin blinked in surprised, "That….sounds like a really awful idea."
"Perhaps." Shaw agreed, "But I think your father did this for you. He would have done anything to make you happy, you know? He even tried to improve Horde relations for this chance and maybe you can find some happiness in this mess, because Light knows most of us can't."
Anduin looked up at him through the fringes of his hair. He was tempted…he was damned tempted. But he knew that it wouldn't be that easy - too many people were out for Wrathion's head. He and Jaina were already on rocky ground as it was, and he knew that it might worsen any relationship with the Horde, who had wanted Garrosh's blood almost as much as Jaina.
"Maybe." Anduin swallowed, "But either way I should bring him back to the city where we can keep an eye on him, before he slips away again.
Shaw nodded, "I can have some of my men transport him here by tomorrow - all in secret of course."
"No." Anduin spoke up, surprising even himself, "No, not yet. I'll head to Lunarfall myself."
"Are you sure that's wise?" Shaw looked skeptical, "People will note your absence."
"I'll only stay a day - I'll let Genn know I'm leaving, but not where I'm going. I'll tell him you know where I'm going, that should appease his worries for the time being."
Shaw nodded, "Very well, but I'm sending some of my best men with you - it'll be best if you go incognito and your guards are hardly the most discreet." He leaned over to peek behind Anduin and the Prince frowned, turning slightly before letting out a sigh. The five personal guards he'd brought with him were all openly staring at them while they spoke, making no move to hide their interest.
"They mean well." Anduin winced, looking back.
Shaw scoffed, "I know children who are better at subtly than them. But I digress…"
"Very well." Anduin nodded, "I'll leave tomorrow, early dawn. Let your men in Stormshield know, I'll portal there and take a Gryphon to Lunarfall. Also send word to Commander Thorne that I'm on my way."
"And impress upon her the importance of secrecy." Anduin stressed, standing up from the table, "Even among her own men. I don't want more than a handful of people even knowing I left the keep."
Anduin paused, looking down at Shaw. Something in his voice gave him pause, a nervous apprehension boiling in his stomach, "What? What is it?"
Shaw wrung his hands, "There's something else you should know, about your black dragon."
Anduin wasn't sure how he felt about Wrathion being called 'his' dragon, but motioned for Shaw to continued.
"More specifically, about the state he was in when he was apprehended…"
Anduin felt his stomach drop out from under him, and his face pale dramatically. He wasn't sure what he expected. That Wrathion had been caught whilst galavanting around Draenor, collecting baubles and champions and gold much like he had in Pandaria. He had an image in his head of him behind bars in Lunarfall complaining about the decor and criticizing the lack of refined cuisine. He hadn't for a moment thought that he might have been injured…or worse…
Anduin sat back in the chair across from Shaw, leaning in with renewed determination.
"Tell me everything."
Stormshield was bitter cold and Anduin had fur lined gloves and hooded cloak to keep the wind from burning his skin. A cold draft was blowing in off the sea, making everyone who worked and lived at the outpost miserable. Those who were braving the outdoors were all huddled around hearths and open fire pits, trying to keep warm.
Anduin preferred it that way. Nobody was around to ask him questions, or potentially recognize him. Not that he was worried - after all, what reason would the High King of the Alliance have to travel to Stormshield of all places.
Getting away from the keep had been simple. The only people who knew he was gone were Genn, Shaw and a single mage who opened a portal for him. Genn had been hard to convince - but after assuring him that where he was going was safe, and that he'd have people with him, the old wolf had finally relented. Although he'd threatened to go straight to Shaw if he was gone more than two days.
But he wouldn't be. He had one mission in mind, and hopefully he would be on his way home by the end of the day. With Wrathion.
His heart clenched when he thought of him. He was filled with so many emotions regarding the dragon. Anger, hurt, frustration. But also worry, nervousness and a third that he wasn't sure he was willing to name just yet. It had been years since he last saw him - and so much had happened since then. Anduin wasn't the same person, and he doubted Wrathion was either.
And there was the issue of his 'little problem'.
It wasn't as bad as he had feared, but he knew that it could be a serious problem if it wasn't fixed. But that would have to wait until he got there.
He found a lone gryphon waiting for him near the gryphon master and knew that it had been procured for him. Knowing it was already trained on which direction to fly, Anduin simply climbed aboard and kicked his heels in, giving it the signal to take off.
They flew low, probably due to the cold weather, and it wasn't a particularly long flight. Only an hour or so later they lowered to a blue and purple landscape. In the far distance he could see the hazy outline of the Temple of Karabor, the centre of Draenei worship. He'd always wanted to visit, but that would have to wait for another day
He landed in Lunarfall before noon, keeping his hood up and handing the gryphon master a handful of silvers for his trouble. He walked through the garrison, heading towards the large building he knew as town hall. Nobody stopped him, asking to speak to him or to ask who he was, but he could feel the tiny pinpricks of stares on his back and knew that he was being watched - probably by Shaw's men.
He entered the building and let out a sigh of relief as a burst of warmth entered through him. He kept his face covered as he walked through the halls until he entered a long room with a dais at the end, a woman with a tight black tony tail and a leather eyepatch sitting at a simple wooden desk at the end.
As he entered Commander Thorne leapt to her feet, coming to attention. "Your Majesty."
"At ease." He waved her down, "I assume you were briefed?"
"Yes sir." Thorne immediately grabbed a handful of papers, "Shaw's message came last night. I assume you'll want to see the Prisoner?"
Anduin winced at the term, but just nodded his ascent sharply. She motioned to the back of the room and he followed her. They travelled into a side room and down some stairs into a basement level. Several iron barred cells were there, and further down heavy metal covered wooden doors that lead to more permanent cells. Thorne brought him to the cell the furthest to the back.
Two guards were standing outside the room, both of them coming to attention as he approached. Standing between then were two women in long mage robes, a human and a dwarf whose chatting ceased as he approached. He nodded at them as they bowed, and looked at the door.
"He in there?" Anduin asked, feeling numb.
"Yes Sir." Thorne paused, "Are you aware of his….condition?"
"Yes." Anduin swallowed nervously. He looked to the two women standing by the door, "You've been taking care of him?"
"Yes, Your Majesty." The human woman spoke. She had very short brown hair, large round eyes and a spattering of freckles across her face, "We've been trying to…fix whatever it is that's wrong with him."
"You don't know?" Anduin frowned.
She exchanged a glance with the Dwarven woman, a dark skinned beauty with an intricately braided hair that fell down to the back of her knees. "Well, we know what's causing it, but we're not sure how to fix it…"
"Maybe it's best you see for yourself." Thorne motioned to the door.
Anduin hesitated, unsure of what he wanted to do. He knew what was on the other side of the door. On one hand, he'd waited for this moment for years, dreamed about how he would react if he ever saw him again. Whether he'd hug him, punch him, arrest him, kiss him….it was never the same.
And now that he was here, he had no idea what to do.
So he just nodded. Motioning for the men to open the door.
The guard nodded and pulled out a large key ring from his belt, finding the right key, unlocking the door and standing aside.
Anduin paused, looking at the open door uneasily.
"It's quite safe." Thorne assured him, mistaking his hesitance for fear.
Anduin nodded and walked towards the door, opening it and walking inside.
The room was much nicer than he'd assumed. There was a bed in the corner, and a side table with an oil lamp on it, lighting up the room. There was a rug on the floor to protect from the icy cold dirt floor and a wardrobe against a wall that looked unused.
Anduin didn't see him at first. It looked like he had taken the ragged thin blanket from the bed and manoeuvred it into some sort of nest, and in the centre was a small black mass, snoring lightly as it slept.
Anduin swallowed, looking at the tiny dragon. He was bigger than he was when he'd last seen him, but was still obviously a whelping. He looked a bit worse for wear, the usual jewelry seen even in his dragon form was gone, and thick dark scars covered his body. Anduin thanked the light that he didn't seemed to be injured anymore, but looking at the sheer amount of damage made him wince.
"Wrathion?" He spoke, his voice much weaker than he had intended. The small dragon didn't even flinch, just curling into the blankets a bit more.
Anduin swallowed and walked a bit closer, looking over the body of the dragon. There was a dark purple collar around his neck, with glowing red gems that pulsed with energy. There was a simple iron chain attached to it, connected to the wall near the bed.
"Why is he chained?" He asked, feeling angry, "He's a dragon, not an animal."
The woman with the pixie hair winced, "I know, but…" She trailed off, shifting from foot to foot.
"What is it?" Anduin asked.
The Dwarven woman walked forward, "He can't change back your majesty, or he won't, we're not sure. But it's more then that, isn't it. It's like…he's gone feral. We're not sure what's happened but we know it's connected to the collar."
Anduin looked at the purple collar, feeling the power coming from it, "The collar?"
"Yes." The human girl seemed to get her courage back, "We have two theories. One: That it's forcing him to stay in his dragon form. Or two: it's forces him to regress into a more animalistic state, and he won't change back because of it."
Anduin swallowed, "Or both."
The human girl winced, "Yes, or both. Most likely both, in fact. But the problem is we've never seen anything like this. We think it must be an invention of the Dragonmaw clan, for obvious reasons. But to be honest, we're not experienced enough to removed the spells on something like this."
Anduin winced. Shaw had told him that Wrathion couldn't seem to change out of his dragon shape - but he hadn't known how bad it was.
"And the chains?" He asked.
This time Thorne came forward, "He's been volatile. He's better than when we first brought him in, but we think…" She winced, "We're pretty sure he's been tortured."
"I figured that, thanks." Anduin uttered darkly.
With a small jerk, the small black mass on the bed twitched awake. Everyone in the room backed up nervously, much to Anduin's amusement. Wrathion had always said he was ferocious, even as a whelping.
Wrathion lifted his head above the blanket, sneeringly lightly and then shaking his head out, wrinkling his nose. He looked up at the people in the room and wiggled around in his nest, looking expectantly at the Mages.
"What's he doing?" Anduin asked, frowning at the dragon. He was acting like a cat or a small dog more so than a dragon. It was weird to see him so…tamed. He'd always been so dramatic, even as a dragon.
"He's waiting for food." The dwarven women said, "Usually we come in to feed him around this time."
"Can he understand us?"
"Maybe?" The human woman frowned, "He hasn't spoken once since he got here, but I don't know if he can understand us anymore…"
Anduin swallowed a lump. There had to be a way to fix this - he'd find someone, there had to be someone who would fix something like this.
He walked over to Wrathion, trying to appear not threatening to the small dragon, "Wrathion?"
The dragon stopped, turning his gaze from the mages to him. Anduin tried to hold back his tears at the blank look in the dragon's red eyes. He let out a low breathe and took another step closer. He held a hand out, trying to see how the dragon would react.
"Your Majesty?" Thorne sounded hesitant.
"It's alright." Anduin turned to give her a smile
Before he'd even finished his sentence there was a flash and Anduin felt something slam into his chest. He gasped as the wind was forced out of him, and went to grab whatever had hit him. But before he could grasp the wriggling reptile, Wrathion crawled up his chest and curled around his neck coming to rest inside the hood of his cloak, his chin resting on Anduin's shoulder, nuzzling into his neck.
Anduin turned, flushing lightly at the surprised looks on the other's faces, "Apparently he likes me."
"Apparently." Thorne looked amused, but also nervous, eyeing the dragon tensely, like she was ready to leap forward should Wrathion decide to attack.
Anduin was beaming inwardly, a warm feeling coming from inside. Apparently Wrathion remembered something about him, maybe his scent or he just recognized him. Either way the young whelpling had determined he wasn't a threat, and had decided to use him as a human furnace. Anduin could remember on some of the colder nights at the Tavern in the Mists when Wrathion would curl into Anduin for warmth, whether that was under his blankets or into his cloak. The weight on his shoulders was a familiar one.
"We found him in Tanaan." Thorne explained, "He was being held captive by one of the last existing hold outs of the Iron Horde. I don't think they even knew why they had him anymore. As soon as we showed up they ran, leaving him behind."
"And the scars?" Anduin asked, trying not to show much much they effected him.
Thorne winced, "They were already there when we picked him up. Whatever happened happened long before then."
Anduin nodded, looking down. A part of him wanted to know what had caused the scars, but a bigger part of him didn't. He couldn't imagine that whatever had actually happened was worse than the plethora of images crawling across his mind.
"I need him back." Anduin muttered, then winced at how it sounded, "We need him back to normal. Can you think of anyone who might be able to figure this out?"
"An archmage?" The human woman suggested, "One of the six perhaps? Khadgar or Lady Proudmoore would be my suggestion."
Anduin winced. Jaina was a hard no. He could only imagine the reaction if he went to her with Wrathion and asked her to put him back to normal. Khadgar was also a no, he was busy on the Broken Isles, fighting against the Legion. He wasn't even sure where the elder mage was most days.
"But even then." The dwarven women frowned, shaking her head, "Whatever this is is powerful, but it akso interacts with his inner magic in a strange way."
"Inner magic?" Anduin asked. "I apologize I don't know anything about Arcane magic."
"His dragon magic." The Dwarven women smiled kindly, "Dragon magic is still a mystery to us. They keep that knowledge close to their chests."
An idea burst into Anduin's mind - something so obvious he wasn't sure how the two mages in front of him hadn't thought about it first. He gave them a quick nod, not willing to give them too much information - after all, if he was to implement this idea, he'd have to head into slightly more dangerous territory, and the less people who knew that the better.
"I'm going to take him back to Stormwind." Anduin spoke, "Hopefully I can get an Archmage to take a look at this, get a better understanding."
Everyone in the room seemed to let out a breathe of relief, and Anduin had to fight to hide a smirk. He wondered how much of a pain Wrathion had been. The Black Dragon could be high maintenance, and he doubted that had stopped just because he'd lost his mind.
"Will you need us to arrange transport?" Thorne asked.
Anduin shook his head, turning to the two mages standing in the room, "Can you open a portal to Stormwind from here? The less travel time I have, the better."
"Of course, your majesty." The human mage nodded kindly.
Anduin smiled at her and she quickly left, preparing to open a portal back home. He reached his hand up and gently rubbed the top of the small dragon's head. Wrathion let out a small snort, and grumbled deep in his chest as Anduin scratched. Anduin smiled sadly at the dragon.
"I'll fix you," Anduin pursed his lips, his eyes sad as he studied his dragon, "I promise."
Getting Wrathion into the Stormwind Keep was easier than Anduin was altogether comfortable with. But the bigger problem was going to be keeping him secret for the time being. He'd filled Shaw in on the situation and then basically stuffed Wrathion into his room before anyone saw him.
Anduin sat at the desk in his room slowly going over the the hundreds of letters and missives from various people around the Broken Isles. Most were requests for troops or information on movements and other useless bits of information. The only bits that were useful to him was information from Khadgar and Genn about their hunt for these so-called Pillars of Creation.
He heard a low grumble behind him and turned, immediately jumping to his feet.
"No!" He rushed into his bedroom, "Wrathion!"
Wrathion had taken all his bedding and molded it into a nest, with his pillows in the centre. Part of his sheets had been ripped from his claws and there was a suspicious amount of feathers flying around. Somehow Wrathion had grabbed numerous amounts of clothing and placed them in various positions around the pillows. In the centre Wrathion was padding around, turning in circles as he attempted to find a place to sleep.
"Damn it." Anduin rubbed his hand through his hair looking at the mess. "How am I gonna explain this?"
Wrathion poked his head up and Anduin snorted as a tunic sleeve was tossed over his snout. The dragon blinked, shaking his head to rid himself of the article of clothing, then turning his eyes to Anduin in wide innocence that he didn't quite buy.
"Look." Anduin snatched the various pieces of clothes off the bed, "We're not staying here, okay? I can't get away with keeping a baby dragon in my room for long - especially a wanted dragon. It's only gonna be for a few days, until I get my plans finalized."
Wrathion made a sound of displeasure as Anduin grabbed the pillows from underneath, but didn't make any sign that he understood a word Anduin said.
Anduin sighed and collapsed onto the edge of the bed. Immediately Wrathion crawled up to him and curled up on his lap. Anduin smiled softly and reached down to scratched his head.
"You're kind cute like this." Anduin mumbled, "When you're back to normal I'll have to tell you all about it."
If he gets back to normal.
"You'll deny it of course.' Anduin shook those thoughts from his head, "You always said dragons couldn't be 'cute'."
Wrathion buried his nose into Anduin's thigh and He had to stop himself from cooing.
"I know it's a bit chilly." Anduin chuckled, "But it's winter. It'll only be a few days though, and where we're going is a bit warmer."
The dragon huffed and curled into a ball. Anduin looked down at his body, tracing over the rough scar lines. He wondered where they were on his human form, and if they looked as bad as they did on his small dragon body.
"What happened to you?" Anduin whispered. As if reading his mind Wrathion whimpered, but then just crawled up off his lap and back into his blanket nest, curling up. Anduin chuckled and shook his head. He walked over to the large fireplace on the wall at the foot of his bed, his eyes studying the large portrait above it for a moment - an oil painting of his father and mother, his mother holding a newborn bundle in her arms. His father had had it commissioned when he'd been born, and it had been hanging in his room ever since.
He reached over beside the fire and grabbed a small nob, twisting it to change the air flow. A few moments later the fire started to grow in size and Anduin knew that the room would be toasty warm in no time.
"The things I do for you." Anduin shook his head, knowing it was going to be unbelievably hot in his room when he went to sleep. "Now I'm going to leave you here - please don't make a mess?"
Wrathion poked his head up through the blankets, tilting his head.
Anduin winced, "Yeah, well…I can hope can't I?"
Wrathion snorted, and for a moment Anduin pretended that he'd done so in humour. Like he had actually understood him.
Anduin looked away. He couldn't afford to hope - not right now. He had to fix him, and quickly. Because there was only so many shredded sheets the servants could mend before they started to notice something was up.
Anduin's day was mostly dull. He spent several hours in the Petitioners chambers, a few more being briefed on troop movements and several others working out political deals with local noblemen and women. He didn't find it too terrible. Unlike his father he got along well with almost everyone and was a natural politician. But the more he spoke with them the more he wondered how his father survived.
It was just before dinner that he ended up meeting with Shaw. The man gave him a few updates about various missions around the Isles and information about Horde movements that were hardly important, but good to know.
It was at the end of his report Shaw paused, looking around the room, his eyes searching for things that even Anduin probably couldn't spot.
"How is he?" Shaw asked finally.
Anduin sighed, dropping his face into his palms and rubbing them over his face. "Not good. He can't transform back, and his mind is….I don't know. It's like he's an animal."
"I've looked into the collar on his neck." Shaw supplied, "From what I can see there isn't anything like it in this timeline. My best guess is that it's an invention of the Iron Horde. I have some agents on Draenor looking through the remnants of the Iron Horde for a solution."
Anduin nodded, "I want to take him to Dalaran."
Shaw was silent for several moment, and Anduin winced, knowing the barrage he was about to get.
"Dalaran?!" Shaw hissed, looking furious, "You want to go to Dalaran, are you insane?!"
"I'll be incognito of course." Anduin rolled his eyes, "But it's important."
"It's a terrible idea!" Shaw stood up and started pacing, "We may have an uneasy peace with the Horde, but there are still those who think that Hellscream had the right idea! The leadership are not the people, and there are some would love nothing more than a war."
"I need to bring him to someone there." Anduin argued.
"Who?" Shaw stopped, leaning over the table, "Who could there possibly be there who would help the Black Prince?"
Shaw blinked, leaning up as he furrowed his brows together. Anduin wished, not for the first time, that he could read his mind. Shaw either thought he was insane, and was thinking of the best way to tell him. Or he was realizing that Anduin was correct.
"Kalecgos?" Shaw pondered out loud, "Kalecgos had a romantic entanglement with Lady Proudmoore."
Anduin chuckled, "Yes, yes I know. My father teased her mercilessly about it. But he's a dragon - not just a dragon but the former aspect of Magic! If anyone could break an arcane spell on a dragon it would be him!"
"So could any blue dragon!" Shaw argued, "I could find you a blue dragon in a heart beat. Kalecgos is on the council of six and is neutral, he won't do this for you just because you're the king."
"I know, I know." Anduin waved his hand, "I'm not going to ask him as a king, I'm gonna ask him…" He let out a breath, swallowing the words. He'd never admitted it out loud. He took a deep breathe in through his nose, reminding himself that Shaw already knew. "I'm asking him as a human in love with a dragon."
The room was silent except for the crackling of the fire. Anduin looked down at the papers in front of him, shuffling them around and trying not to look up at Shaw who was probably looking at him with pity.
"I'm hoping that he'll be able to empathize." Anduin swallowed loudly, gritting his teeth, "Kalecgos has always been the voice of reason to Jaina. And I can't ask him here - it would be too suspicious. People would ask questions." He trailed off, wringing his hands as Shaw watched him, waiting for some sort of response.
"Damn it." Shaw grumbled.
Anduin looked up, seeing Shaw with pursed lips, "What?"
Shaw rubbed his forehead, muttering something unsavoury about his king under his breathe. Anduin raised an eyebrow, it had been a long time since someone had been brave enough to speak to him like that.
"Give me a week." Shaw muttered, "I'll need to work up possible transport, and protection thats subtle enough for a city of the most powerful people in Azeroth to not notice the bloody High King walking through the city."
Anduin let out a breath, "Thank you Mathias."
"Don't thank me yet." The old spy grunted, "Thank me when I get you in and out without dying."
Anduin have him a warm smile, "I'm still thankful. You didn't need to help me with this."
"Yes I did." Shaw's eyes darkened again, reminding Anduin of the spymasters guilt. Anduin softened a bit and gave him another thankful smile.
"I appreciate it." Anduin assured him.
Shaw nodded and gave him a smile in return that looked more like a grimace. Then he dropped low into a bow and turned to leave.
Anduin caught his attention before he vanished behind a door.
"Shaw." He called out. Mathias stopped at the door and gave him a curious glance, "Could you arrange for some of your people to get two extra large cooked steaks to my room discreetly. Oh, and a new set of sheets."
Shaw's eyes sprinkled with amusement, but he gave him a quick nod before leaving.
Anduin leaned back into his chair, determined to finish the paperwork in front of him so he could return to his room and enjoy his dinner.
He was correct that the room was sweltering when he returned. He noticed that the servants had turned the fire down when they brought his dinner. A small personal table by the window had a tray of food on it and he felt his stomach grumble when he saw it.
A whine came from the bed and Anduin turned to see a pair of red eyes peaking out from underneath a pile of blankets. He noted with pleasure that the bed was mostly intact, and let out a breath of relief. Someone had replaced the torn sheets and pillow already and he hoped it was Shaw's people and not the servants.
Anduin looked at Wrathion who was underneath the blankets, and he frowned for a moment. "Are you…hiding?"
Wrathion peeked his head out, blinking at him blankly.
Anduin stopped. He hadn't thought about the servants who brought dinner to his room. They could have easily seen the small dragon! It had been a stupid mistake, but it appeared that the dragon was smarter than he looked, even in his semi-feral state, and has hidden underneath the covers.
"Thank you." Anduin said, "I'll have to find something for you to do during the day…"
He wandered over to his table, opening a nearby tray and grabbing a giant piece of perfectly cooked meat, shiny and fatty and probably far nicer than anything Wrathion had eaten in years. Without another word he tossed it onto the stone floor in front of the fire.
Wrathion pounced on it from the bed, immediately ripping his teeth into it and tearing off strips to eat. Anduin remembered Wrathion mentioning that dragons preferred their meat cooked, which was actually the primary factor for their fiery breath. A few times Wrathion blew onto the meat, burning it black before swallowing it whole. It didn't take long for him to devour the entire piece. Anduin kept the second piece on the tray, saving it for the morning when he would no doubt be hungry again. Instead, Anduin turned to his own meal, opening a book on nature based healing magic as Wrathion curled up in front of the fire.
Anduin felt his heart warm at the strange domesticity of it all. It reminded him of his time at the Tavern - when things hadn't seemed quite so serious. There had been a war going on, and Anduin was healing from a serious injury, but everything hadn't seemed so scary. He still saw the world through bright eyes, and saw the good and beauty in the world. He loved everything about this strange new place and was all too willing to allow the exotic stranger to show him every part of it. He could remember long nights in the hot springs while Wrathion explained the culture of the Pandaren and the magic of the Sha and Anduin would point out the different constellations in the sky and explain the stories behind them that he'd known since he was a child. Sometimes they would sneak away from his guards and Left and Right to sneak into the mountain, find a secluded place where they could be alone, just the two of them.
Anduin wondered what had happened to Left and Right. He knew that Wrathion cared a great deal more for them then he let on. They were probably dead - there was no way they would abandon their Prince otherwise.
Anduin finished his food quickly and left it on the tray, moving towards his bed. He was bone tired - he always was these days. He quickly undressed and crawled under the covers, taking a few minutes to straighten out the mess Wrathion had made.
Anduin felt a dip in the edge of his bed and looked down to see Wrathion had jumped on the end, standing there and watching him. His head was tilted and he looked uncertain.
Anduin sighed and patted the bed next to him. Wrathion crawled up the bed and curled up on the pillow next to him. Anduin lay down, turning on his side so he could watch the dragon. He stayed there, listening to the crackling of the fire and the wind blowing outside until his eyes failed him and he fell asleep.
He woke up with a heavy weight on his back. He grunted, lifting his face off his pillow and beadily looking around the room.
He shifted, and a low whine came from his back and he froze, realizing that somehow during the night Wrathion had curled up in the small of his bad. Anduin lifted his head to look out the window and could see that the sun had only barely breached the horizon.
He smirked to himself and in one swift movement twisted onto his side. With a loud squawk Wrathion slid off his back, and off the edge of the bed, landing on the floor awkwardly. Anduin heard an angry hiss and chuckled, twisting around to raise a single eyebrow at the very angry dragon.
"Sorry. I didn't see you there."
Anduin heard a noise that sounded like it could be mocking laughter, before the dragon jumped back onto the bed and curled up on his pillow. Anduin rolled his eyes and sat up, having the feeling he wasn't going to be getting back to sleep anytime soon.
He called for some breakfast and noted how Wrathion nudged his way under the blankets when the servants brought the food in. After they left, Anduin tossed the leftover steak for Wrathion, who burnt the entire thing black before eating it. Anduin had to chase him when the dragon had tried to take the food onto the bed which had ended with the ends of his robes being burnt and a sound of displeasure from a very annoyed dragon. For the rest of the morning Wrathion sulked by the fire and adamantly refused to look his way.
Anduin quickly got dressed, looking around and frowning as he tried to decide what to do with Wrathion. After a few moment's he gathered up his bedding and brought it into his small side office, dropping it under his desk. Wrathion hobbled in behind him, staring up at him curiously.
"You'll have to stay in here for now." Anduin told him, "Yesterday we were lucky, but no one can know you're here."
Wrathion just stared at him, tilting his head before walking over and curling up on the blankets, closing his eyes. Anduin frowned. It seemed all Wrathion did was sleep - he wondered if it had something to do with the collar.
"I'll be away again." Anduin told him, unsure of why he was doing so. It wasn't like he could understand him.
Wrathion, predictably, didn't respond.
Anduin sighed and went to leave. As he moved to close the door Wrathion's head shot up and stared at him. Anduin felt a twinge of guilt, but he knew he had to do it. He closed the wooden door and locked it, pocketing the small iron key into his pocket.
He leaned his forehead on the door and sighed, "Only a week. It's just one week."
He took a deep breath and stood up straight, smoothing the wrinkles out of his clothing, and turned to leave his room, ignoring the slight scratching at the door behind him.
What followed had to be one of the longest weeks of Anduin's life. Keeping Wrathion a secret was turning out to be a bit tricker than he'd intended. The small dragon hadn't taken well to being locked in his room and had taken his revenge by ripping up his bedding and scratching up the walls and door.
To avoid it again Anduin had ordered nobody in his room during the day, which was strange to say the least. Thankfully nobody would go so far as to question his orders, but he knew that the gossipers in the keep must be having a field day.
Wrathion broke out on day three. Anduin wasn't sure how, or how nobody had noticed, but he'd returned back to an empty room that night. He'd panicked at first, flying into a fit as he tore his room apart searching for him. After he'd determined that Wrathion wasn't there, he called for Shaw immediately. The spymaster had his people go out and they quickly found the dragon hanging out by the lake, splashing in the water and flying around. It had taken three rogues to wrangle the dragon back into the keep and all three looked a little worse for wear by the end of it.
Wrathion spent the next day moping, or something like that. Anduin actually thought the dragon might be trying to apologize. He kept curling around his feet, making the sad whining sound that tore at Anduin's heartstrings. He'd brought half of his usual burnt steak over and dropped it down on the floor next to the table, looking at Anduin expectantly and he'd looked so sad that Anduin had reluctantly taken the steak and took a small bite, which seemed to appease him.
Day five and six were spent in a tense stand off between him and Wrathion. He'd return to his room several times a day to make sure that Wrathion hadn't tried to escape again and he often found him in some rather compromising positions. The first time he'd caught Wrathion breaking apart and eating the marrow out of the steak bone on his bed. When Anduin opened the door the dragon had stared at him with wide horrified eyes at being caught. More than once Wrathion had decided to nap in the fireplace and had proceeded to track blackened charcoal footprints all over the room, and once he had managed to rip the curtains off the rod and had added them to the semi permanent nest under Anduin's desk. He's also taken to stealing any of Anduin's dirty clothing and added them to the mess.
One day Anduin had arrived late to an important meeting with Gryan covered in soot, his clothing wrinkled and hair dishevelled after wrestling a soot covered Wrathion into the office before locking the door. He dreaded to think the mess that would be in there when he got back, but at the very least he couldn't get soot in the bed.
"Dare I ask?" Genn asked, looking him up and down with a heavily raised eyebrow
Anduin sat down across from him with as much dignity as he could muster, "Trust me, you don't want to know."
Thankfully Genn didn't ask, and instead started his report, which Anduin paid attention to diligently and tried not to think about what was happening in his office at that moment.
The sixth day Shaw finally called on him.
Anduin met with him in the petitioners chamber feeling a bit worse for wear. He wondered if this was what is was like having a child. He collapsed into a chair and rubbed a hand over his face.
"Please tell me we're ready." Anduin mumbled through his hands.
Shaw chuckled, "It seems you've had an interesting week?"
Anduin just groaned, slumping further into his chair.
"Well you'll be pleased to hear that we are ready." Shaw went straight into business mode, and Anduin sat up straighter, feeling a piercing hope in his gut. "You leave tonight."
His disguise for going into Dalaran was a bit more elaborate than usual. He wore very large robes and belts filled with various items and trinkets. He wore a large basket tied to his back which held a loud angry dragon who was obviously very displeased with his current situation. Anduin had a large scarf which covered his face and his hair was rubbed with tar until it looked black and oily. Anduin wouldn't have recognized himself in the mirror, let alone some stranger on the streets.
Anduin shuffled roughly, causing Wrathion to fall over inside the basket. He had a yowling sound of displeasure and Anduin quickly shushed him, "Quiet."
It was nighttime in Dalaran, and the streets were mostly empty. Nearly every single guard on the Alliance and Horde side had been changed to Shaw's people. Anduin supposed he should feel worried that Shaw had people in the Horde and he hadn't known, but currently he was just thankful for the extra security,
Wrathion was furious, and Anduin was scared that he might try to burn the basket he was in, but so far all he'd done was grumble and hiss as he was jostled about.
"We're almost there." Anduin whispered as they passed by the entrance to the Windrunner Sanctuary as it had recently been renamed. As he passed, an undead woman standing guard nodded at him almost unnoticeably, which was more than a little strange. To be polite, he nodded back, and continued on his way.
He entered the Legerdemain Lounge, reaching into his bag to pull out a key that had already been procured for one of the rooms. The woman behind the bar smiled at him pleasantly. Anduin headed towards the stairs before she tried to make small talk.
The room was simple and cheap, certainly not anything one would find a king in. Anduin wasn't bothered, he had slept in much rougher circumstances before.
The first thing he did was detach the basket, and it fell to the floor hard, making Anduin wince.
"Sorry." Anduin knelt down and took the lid off the top, letting the Dragon flop out. Wrathion hissed through his teeth, "Don't give me that! Hopefully we should have that collar off by the end of the night."
Wrathion quieted down and Anduin got the sense again that he could understand him more than he was letting on.
Anduin knew that Kalec was told to meet him here in about half an hour. The blue dragon didn't know it was him he'd be meeting, only that Mathias Shaw had some information for him. It was best this way, leaving even less people knowing about his visit to city.
He spent the next half hour staying away from the windows and trying to keep Wrathion out of trouble. The young dragon managed to kill the sheets and the curtain and was starting to gnaw on a bedpost. Anduin sighed and pulled out a pouch of gold coins, leaving them on the bedside table to hopefully cover whatever damages Wrathion could inflict.
Finally Anduin heard a knocking at the door and he froze, motioning for Wrathion to hide. Thankfully the dragon understood and he rushed into the basket, immediately hiding himself from site. Anduin let out a breath, grabbing his scarf and holding it over his face as he walked to the door.
He opened it an inch, sighing when he saw the familiar face on the other side, his recognizable bright blue hair hidden underneath a red cloak but it couldn't hide his bright eyes and heavy eyebrows the same colour as his hair.
"Come in." Anduin spoke, his voice muffled by his scarf. Kalecgos looked wary, his eyes narrowed suspiciously, but he walked into the room all the while, most likely confident in his ability to deal with anyone who could be in there.
As soon as the door was closed he ripped off his hood and scarf, turning to face the mage. His eyes widened as he recognized him, even with the tar stained hair.
"Your Majesty?" Kalec asked, his voice respectful and even.
"I apologize for the deception." Anduin spoke, walking over to the window. He peeked his eyes outside, trying to see if anyone was watching them, "But it's best if my presence here goes mostly unnoticed."
"Of course." Kalec paused, "If I may ask-"
"I need your help." Anduin spoke, his mouth drying out. He felt a moment of fear - what if he said no? What if he told Jaina? What if he took Wrathion away from him after he finally found him after all these years?
His fear must have shown on his face, because Kalec's eyes softened for a moment and gave him a reassuring nod.
Anduin swallowed loudly, and turned to the basket, walking over to it. Silently he reached into it and grabbed Wrathion. He felt the dragon curl around his arm before crawling up until he had wound his way around his neck. The black dragons red eyes scanned the room, and once he saw Kalecgos he hissed lowly and curled back, tucking his face into Anduin cloak.
Kalec's eyes widened even further, and Anduin heard him suck in a breath between his teeth. Anduin winced and instinctively brought a hand up protectively.
"There's something wrong." Anduin spoke, trying to explain, "I - there's this collar…"
Kalecgos was silent for a moment. He closed his eyes and then tilted his head breathing deep. Anduin winced as there was a bright glow coming from beside him and turned to see the collar on Wrathion's neck glowing brightly. After a few moments the glow faded away and Kalec's eyes opened.
"What happened?" The elder dragon asked, his eyes furrowed.
Anduin was still tense, "We don't know. We found him in Draenor with the Iron Horde. We're pretty sure it's keeping him from transforming, and keeping his mind at bay. He hasn't spoken since we found him."
Kalecgos walked forward, and Wrathion curled up further into Anduin's hood hiding lightly, "Peace little one." Kalec whispered, "May I see?"
Wrathion hesitated a moment, but then Anduin felt him emerge from his scarf and cloak, sticking his head out and showing the purple and red collar. For the first time Anduin winced as he saw bright red marks all around the collar where it looked like Wrathion had tried to remove the collar himself.
Kalecgos came forward and looked at the collar, his eyebrows furrowed as he studied it.
"It's keeping him from changing form, yes." Kalecgos tilted his head, "I've seen similar things before. This is highly advanced however."
"Can you remove it?"
Kalec paused, looking from the dragon to Anduin, "I was under the impression that Wrathion was wanted for several crimes."
Anduin winced, looking down. He reached up to rub his forehead, turning away from the mage. Wrathion went with him, twisting his body to keep looking at the blue dragon as he did so.
"I'm not asking as a king." Anduin pleaded, "I'm asking as a personal favour. You can say no."
"I know." Kalecgos spoke kindly, but Anduin could see a strange conflict in his eyes, "Dalaran is neutral again - something you helped happen if I remember correctly."
"Having neutral territory is important." Anduin argued, feeling like he was repeating himself yet again, "We need to show a willingness to cooperate with the Horde if we're to unite to defeat the Legion."
"I'm not arguing with you." Kalecgos held up his hands, "In fact, I agree with you."
Kalec nodded, "Yes, it has caused something of a…rift, with me and Jaina." He gave Anduin a meaningful look and Anduin winced. If Kalecgos were to help him it wouldn't do anything to help repair his relationship with Jaina.
"I know I have no reason to expect your help." Anduin looked down, "But I'm asking anyways."
"Because you love him?"
Anduin groaned, dropping his face into his hands, "Light, does everyone know?!"
Kalecgos chuckled, and the mood in the room seemed to lighten, "I believe it must be your worst kept secret?"
Anduin scoffed, shaking his head. He reached up and pulled Wrathion off his shoulder. The Dragon squawked indignantly and wriggled as Anduin gently placed him on the bed.
"He's made mistakes." Anduin looked at Wrathion fondly, "And some stupid ones at that. I've spent a long time mad at him. But no matter what he's done he thought he was doing the right thing."
"Every evil deed ever done was by someone thinking they were doing the right thing." Kalecgos pointed out.
Anduin winced, knowing the older man had a point. Very few mortal beings were evil for the sake of being evil.
"He placed the world on his shoulder." Anduin explained, "He thought it was his job to save us all…I think we'd all do horrible things if we thought it would save the world."
"Perhaps." Kalecgos whispered, looking down in sadness.
"And maybe all he needs is someone to forgive him." Anduin urged, "But he doesn't deserve this…no matter what."
Kalecgos winced visibly, and Anduin knew he was probably thinking about Jaina. He knew that his father could have locked her up in a second for what she tried to do to Orgrimmar. But instead of condemning her for her actions His Father, the council, and Kalecgos has all tried to help her instead - trying to help her heal.
"I just want to help him." Anduin pleaded.
Kalec held up a hand, cutting him off, "I would have helped you Anduin, no matter what. Jaina may be…distant, recently, but I know that she cares a great deal for you. And no matter what he's done…he's only a whelpling."
Kalecgos turned his eyes to Wrathion and his gaze softened for a moment. Anduin looked at Wrathion, who was chewing on a pillow, seemingly not caring about their conversation. Anduin hadn't really thought about it before, but to most dragons Wrathion must only be a baby, or a small child. Even if he seemed intelligent to Anduin, all Dragons were born intelligent.
"Do me a favour." Kalecgos looked over at Anduin with a small smirk, "Don't tell Jaina."
"My lips are sealed." Anduin was nearly vibrating with excitement as he realized that he'd succeeded.
Kalec's lip's twitched, and then he walked over to where Wrathion was sitting. The black dragon watched him as he came over, curling over the pillow protectively as if Kalecgos was going to take it away. Instead the mage held his hand out and closed his eyes, and the collar began to glow again.
"It's good you called me." Kalecgos whispered, "The magic is weaved into his dragon magic rather…delicately. If an unexperienced dragon tried to fix it they might have damaged his mind permanently."
Anduin felt sick at the idea, and prayed that whatever the two mages at Lunarfall did didn't have any permanent side effects.
Kalecgos spoke in what Anduin realized was Draconic, and several runes appeared on the outside of the collar. Wrathion started to shifted uneasily, and Anduin eased his way forward, feeling like he was about to run.
"Wrathion." Anduin eased his way closer, "It's alright."
Wrathion wiggled, shifting around as Kalecgos chanted, looking down at the collar on his neck, low whines coming from his throat.
"Hey, hey." Anduin moved closed, placing a hand on his back, trying to comfort him, and keep him in place at the same time, "It's okay, he's trying to help. We're trying to help."
But Wrathion wasn't having it. The dragon tensed, and Anduin reached down to grab him, knowing he was about to bolt.
"Wrathion!" Anduin hissed, holding him as the Dragon snarled and wiggled, trying to free himself from his grasp, "Hold still!"
Kalecgos continued to chant, and Anduin wished he would hurry it up. The runes on the outside of the collar had faded in colour, but were still there. Anduin got the sense that once they vanished entirely they would be able to remove the collar.
Wrathion swiped out with his claws and caught Anduin on the cheek, making him hiss and almost let him go before reaffirming his hold, feeling the blood rolling down his cheek.
Kalec stopped chanting and then reached forward, tapping one finger against the outside of the collar.
Wrathion let out a garbled screech of pain as a blinding white light erupted from the collar. Anduin was forced to released him as he held his hands up, turning away and shielding himself from the light. For a moment there was nothing but a complete brightness, but it slowly started to fade away.
Anduin blinked his eyes a few times, rubbing them to try and dispel the shapes and blobs in his vision. He felt his heart beating a mile a minute, remembering the scream of pain that had come from his dragon before they'd been enveloped. He looked around the room, feeling a panic as he saw an empty bed in front of him.
"Wrathion?!" Anduin's voice was weak as he looked around, patting the bedding like he was just underneath it.
Anduin whipped his head around and saw Kalecgos bent over, peering underneath the wardrobe. Anduin rushed over and got to his knees, peeking his head underneath. Two beady red eyes were staring back out at them, his lips pulled back into a snarl.
"He's still a dragon." Anduin frowned, "Did it not work?"
Kalecgos held out his hand and Anduin turned to see the purple collar, now a plain dull strip of leather looking torn and half burnt.
"But he's still in his dragon form?"
Kalecgos sighed, pocketing the collar, and reaching to pull his hood back over his head, "Yes, but he can change back now. If he wants to."
Anduin climbed to his feet, "What do you mean?"
Kalec moved towards the door to the room, pausing before he reached for the handle, "Sometimes…it's easier to be a dragon."
He then reached for the door handle.
"So he's okay?" Anduin asked, looking down, "He'll be okay?"
Kalec winced, "As okay as one would be…with whatever he had been through. But the suppression is gone, so his thoughts and mind are his own."
"Thank you." Anduin beamed at him, trying to convey his thankfulness as his heart threatened to rip from his chest, "I know this will do you no favours. But it means a lot to me."
Kalec gave him a soft smile, "Perhaps I understand where you're coming from."
Anduin nodded, and giving him a small farewell, "If you hear from Jaina, let her know I miss her."
Kalec nodded, opening the door and slipping out without another word.
Anduin sighed, moving to lock the door behind him. He leaned against the door for a few seconds, before he turned back to look at the wardrobe.
"Wrathion?" He called out gently. There was no response and he huffed, walking over and crouching low. He looked underneath the wardrobe and quickly found the red eyes. He was no long snarling, but was instead hiding his face underneath his wings, "I know you can understand me."
Wrathion ignored him.
"Please come out." Anduin urged, "Kalec is gone now."
Wrathion lowered his wings, and started to crawl forward. Anduin moved back as the dragon crawled out from underneath. Anduin half expected him to climb up onto his shoulders, but instead he just scurried across the room and into the basket that had brought him there.
"No, Wrathion!" Anduin reached for the basket, picking it up and looking inside, "What are you doing?"
Wrathion made a garbled noise and curled up, pointedly ignoring him.
"I know you can speak now." Anduin crossed his arms, "You're not fooling me."
Wrathion continued to ignore him.
Anduin huffed, crossing his legs and sitting on the floor next to the woven basket, "Come on Wrathion. You're safe now, you know? I'm not gonna arrest you or anything. I might yell at you a bit, probably a lot actually. I might hit you."
Wrathion turned his eyes on him, his expression one of disbelief.
"Yeah, that's not helping is it?" Anduin winced, "Look, of course I'm a little mad. But I'm just happy you're okay. Please change back?"
Wrathion turned back into the basket, not saying anything.
Anduin sighed, putting his arms on his knees and leaning his face onto his hands, breathing deeply. He thought about Kalec had said, that sometimes it was easier to be a dragon. He supposed it must be easy - you can't read a dragon's face like you could a person - it must be so simple to hide your emotions and feelings from those around you.
Anduin remembered after his father died. He'd wanted nothing more to hide away in his room, and just stay there forever. But he hadn't had that luxury - he'd had to immediately take command of the entire Alliance, and was thrown into the middle of a war with one of the largest and most powerful armies in the universe. It had been months before he'd had a moment to grieve. He supposed, if the world was falling apart and he could turn into a dragon and hide in a basket, he would as well.
He needed to make him feel safe again.
Anduin stood up, reaching for his cloak and scarf, starting to rebuild his disguise. Wrathion watched his, confused. Anduin grabbed the cover to the basket and placed it back on, grabbing the entire thing and securing it to his back. Wrathion made an noise of indignation as he was tossed around.
"If you want to walk then turn back." Anduin rolled his eyes, "Otherwise hush up."
The dragon grumbled, but went silent.
Anduin left the inn disguised, handing the key back to the barmaid, wincing as he thought about the state of the room. He then left the lounge, turning left and heading towards the Greyfang Enclave. He winced as he thought about what he was about to do, knowing it was going to cause a bit of an uproar with Genn and Shaw.
He walked into the enclave, moving towards the semi-permanent portals on his left, all being maintained by the midnight crew of mages, who all looked only half awake as they worked.
Instead of walking towards the portal back to Stormwind, Anduin turned to a portal at the very end.
Wrathion made a curious sound from his basket, but Anduin ignored him, walking through the portal before anyone could notice his plan.
It was dawn by the time they arrived and Anduin was exhausted. But it was worth it. Wrathion had fallen asleep at some point. He only knew that because he had stopped moving around and making annoyed noises at every opportunity.
The Gryphon hit the ground and Anduin climbed off, wincing as his legs cramped. He rubbed them a bit, and paid the gryphon master, before turning towards the path in front of him.
He felt a smile come unbidden to his face at the familiar scene, familiar air…He closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of the morning, going back to an easier time, a happier time..
He started to walk up the path, heading towards the small building hidden within the rocks and trees. The hike was much easier than he remembered it being - even with a small dragon strapped to his back.
He entered the Inn with a sigh. It was much emptier than he remembered. The only patrons were Pandarans, and they were few at that. He supposed with the war over, the heroes and adventurers who'd travelled through had moved on. Wrathion's entourage of Blacktalons were gone as well, leaving only the lonely innkeeper Tong, who was washing a dish in the corner silently.
Anduin walked over to him, standing in front of the bar. With only a moment of hesitation he pulled his scarf down under his chin, smiling wildly at the old Pandaran whom he was quite fond of. Tong looked up and froze, his eyes wide. Anduin brought a finger up to his lips, motioning for him to keep quiet.
"Can I have a room?" He asked.
Tong blinked at him for a few moment, before nodding. He looked behind him, maybe searching for guards that had accompanied him. But after finding nothing he simply reached beneath his bar and pulled out a simply iron key. Anduin smiled at the familiar number on the key, and gave him a thankful glance before dropping some silver on the counter.
He walked up the stairs, which were much easier without a busted knee. He easily found the door and opened the door.
The inside looked exactly the same. The same bed, in the same spot, the same view. Anduin walked over to the large window and looked outside, closing his eyes and breathing in a deep breath of familiar smells.
He unhooked the basket, careful this time not to let it drop. He gently lowered it to the floor. Without a word he opened it, gently lifting the sleepy dragon out. Wrathion didn't once open his eyes as he moved him onto the bed behind him. The dragon twisted and curled up, sighing lightly as he formed into a ball.
Anduin smiled. He left him there, removing his clothes until only his basic tunic and leggings remained. He went over to a wash basin and carefully started to work to removed the colour from his hair. After a while he got the most of it out, leaving his hair just a shade or two darker than normal. Drying it with a towel, he walked back towards the bed. He smiled at Wrathion curled up on the bed.
Maybe, just for a day, they could pretend everything was the same as it bad been back then.
Anduin lifted the blanket, and shifting underneath, letting Wrathion curl up beside him. With the warmth at his side, and the smell of the sheets, he easily fell into a deep sleep.
He woke up with a much larger warmth at his back.
He didn't think much of it at first, burying his face into the pillow, breathing in deeply. The sun wasn't in his face like usual, and realized it was because it was mid day. He remembered that it had been dawn by the time he'd finally fallen to sleep.
He sighed, humming lightly. It was nice to sleep through the day. He didn't have the time anymore. He usually woke at dawn, working until sundown and tried his best to sleep through the night. Waking up, knowing he didn't have to get up, was a strange feeling.
He twisted, turning towards the centre of the bed, cracking his neck slightly.
Anduin felt his mouth drop open as he turned and saw the stretched out image of Wrathion curled underneath the blankets. His curly hair falling in front of his eyes and down his neck, much longer than he remembered. His horns were larger as well, almost a foot long and deadly sharp. It looked strange seeing him without his jewellery, but everything about him was so painfully familiar that it made his heart ache.
He felt a burst of hurt and pain as memories of the last time he'd seen this face. The betrayal and the disbelief. That time may have been easier for him, but it was also a time when he'd been youthfully naive. He was a king now, leading a war, and now he understood the need to made sacrifices, and no matter how much he hated it, and however long it kept him up at night, he still knew it was the right thing to do.
Anduin rested on his side, just watching Wrathion sleep. He could see some of the tiny scars that had been so large on his dragon form. They seemed so small now, but they were everywhere. On his cheek, neck, shoulders and chest. He imagined there'd be more on his back and the rest of his body and it made him hurt, thinking of the pain he'd gone through.
Against his better nature, he reached forward, gently tracing his finger over a particularly nasty scar on his upper arm. It looked like it had been reopened multiple times.
"Is this a dream?"
Anduin jumped, cursing lightly under his breath before looking up. Wrathion's eyes were still closed, and for all the world he still looked asleep. The corner of his lips twitched, and Anduin huffed,
"You scared me."
"You haven't answered me."
"Better not be." Anduin grumbled, thinking of the pain of the last week, "You've been a menace."
"I've been a dream." Wrathion argued, still not opening his eyes, "I'm a delight."
Anduin chuckled, scooting a bit closer, "I'm sure you think so."
Wrathion didn't say anything for a while, and Anduin was sure that he'd fallen back asleep. He continued to trace the scars on his arm, and once he run out of those, he moved closer so he could reach the ones on his chest. When he reached one on his side, Wrathion twitched.
"Still ticklish?" Anduin smirked.
Wrathion snorted, "I don't know what you're talking about."
Anduin paused, looking up at his face. He furrowed his eyebrows and watched him, worried.
"Wrathion." He whispered, "Open your eyes."
"Hmm?" Wrathion pretended he didn't hear him.
Anduin sat up, pulling the blankets with him, "Wrathion."
"Open your eyes."
"I swear on the Light-"
"It's too bright in here."
Anduin huffed loudly, and twisted his body, getting onto his knees and throwing a leg over Wrathion, successfully straddling his hips.
The feeling of his weight startled Wrathion enough that his eyes snapped open and he stared at Anduin with shock.
They were both silent, Anduin caught Wrathion's startled eyes and held them. Wrathion seemed to be searching for something in his gaze, and Anduin was confused. After a few minutes Wrathion's eyes softened and were filled with the familiar sarcastic mirth he was used to, but still tinged with a permeant layer of pain that hadn't been there before.
"I believe you promised you'd hit me." Wrathion teased.
Anduin snorted, "And I still might. You're not totally off the hook yet."
Wrathion was silent after that. Anduin didn't like his face like this. Wrathion had always had a very expressive face, even if he wasn't expressing the emotions he was actually feeling.
In an urge to put something other than pain in his eyes, Anduin grabbed his shoulders and yanked him upright, so he was sitting. Wrathion's face flashed in surprise, and then a smirk crossed his face.
"Most people buy me dinner first, but alright-"
"Shut up." Anduin snapped, before grabbing the back of his head, fingers tightening on his curly hair, and yanking him forward, pressing his mouth against his in a desperation to show whatever he was feeling in his stomach and chest.
Wrathion froze for a moment, before pressing back, wrapping his arms around Anduin and pulling him in tight, gripping his arms tighter then was strictly comfortable, and hard enough to leave bruises. Like he was afraid that he would vanish right in front of him. Anduin pulled his arms back, pressing them into Wrathion's chest, finding his heart and placing his palms there, a silent firm promise that he wasn't going anywhere.
Wrathion pulled back and pressed his forehead to Anduin's, his eyes closed as he breathed deeply. "It has been far too long My Dear Prince."
Anduin didn't bother to correct him, that was a conversation for another time. Instead he allowed Wrathion to hold him, keeping his hands pressed to his chest, desperately trying to ignore the raised scars under his hands.
Wrathion opened his eyes, and Anduin was pleased to see that the pain had faded, and had a glimpse of humour in his eyes. "I'm not wearing any pants."
Anduin raised an eyebrow, a small flush in his cheeks, "Yeah. I can tell."
Wrathion rolled his eyes and pushed his shoulders, and Anduin fell onto his back with a burst of laughter.
Wrathion gathered his sheet and tied it around his waist, standing up and looking around.
"How long have we been here?" He asked, looking much more the confident Black Prince Anduin remembered from his youth.
"Not long." Anduin replied, "Since dawn. We can't stay long, I'll have people looking for me soon."
"Hmm." Wrathion smirked, "A lone prince on the run in Pandaria. Where have I heard this before?"
"I'm hardly alone."
Wrathion twitched an eyebrow up, then smirked at him, "No. You're not."
"And neither are you." Anduin promised, his face going serious, "I…I don't know what happened to you the last few years, but I can't imagine it was good. But I'm not gonna let you be alone, not anymore."
Wrathion watched him silently, his eyes empty again. Anduin suddenly felt awkward, shifting from foot to foot and praying that he would say something.
Wrathion nodded once, and then his face shifted into a look of mischievousness and a sort of smug condescension that was glaringly familiar.
"Well then." Wrathion twirled, looking around the room, winking at Anduin, "Now that we've got that out of the way. Let's find me some clothes."