Part One: The Black Prince
"Have you heard? There's a rumour in St. Petersburg. Have you heard? What they're saying on the streets..."
He stood in the crowd, his form melting in with the throngs of people. Traders, merchants, solider's wearing the familiar black and red sigil of Stormwind all crowded around the Trade District centre square, creating the perfect place for someone to blend in and lose themselves.
He was wearing a long dusty brown robe, with a frayed scarf that only left his eyes visible. He had a simple glamour on them, showing a boring brown rather than the usual flaming red that was so very recognizable. All in all he was a very boring individual in the streets, hardly someone worth stopping, or talking too. He was a bit disgruntled about that - he much preferred the gold and silk covered tunic and jewel encrusted turban he usually wore. He liked being the first thing someone saw when they walked into a room. But this mission required stealth.
He kept an eye out for his target, also keeping a nervous eye on the guards. He doubted any of them were competent enough to see through his glamour, but he kept far away from them, just to be safe. If he were found out no doubt they'd run him through, and bring his head to their lovely queen.
He spotted the man over by a food cart which was selling sweet smelling sticky buns. He was smiling wildly at the owner, handing over a handful of copper for one of the treats, giving her a grateful look as he walked over to the large centre fountain to eat quietly.
He felt a burst of excitement as he looked at the boy. Right had been correct, the boy was perfect! He couldn't believe his luck! For year's he'd been looking for someone that looked even remotely close to the boy sitting almost right in front of him.
Hundreds of different people had come forward over the years, claiming to be the lost Prince, but they all made the same simple mistake. There was only a handful of people alive today who knew what the Prince looked like. Every single person paraded in front of the Queen were warriors, with a strong jaw and a mass of black hair. Some of them looked so similar to the dead King that Wrathion would have been impressed had he not known the truth.
The child Prince had looked far more like his mother than his father - a slimmer face and build with golden hair. The only aspect of his father he retained was his bright blue eyes. The boy in front of him captured that look perfectly. He looked to be about the right age, nineteen or twenty - his hair was a beautiful golden blond, held back with an elastic with only a few fringes hanging in front of his face.
Wrathion noticed a small prayer book attached to his belt and frowned - it would be better, more believable, if he had been a warrior - but he could work with it.
The most important thing about him was the large smile on his face - an unbridled innocent with just a dash of optimism that would make him putty in Wrathion's hand.
Because another mistake that people made was trying to trick Katrana Prestor. He knew his 'sister' better than most and she was deadly smart - she couldn't be tricked, at least not by some common human.
If he was going to convince her that he had the lost prince in his possession, he'd have to convince the boy first.
Andrew hated this city. It was over crowded and dirty and stank of the thousands of people and animals that lived there. The hundreds of guards who patrolled the streets, one hand on a weapon as they watched the people going about their everyday lives, made it feel like a prison. Every now and then he'd hear some of the older veterans talk about how it used to be - open borders and crowds of half a dozen various races. Apparently the views from the towers were beautiful - the ocean to the west and the expanse of the Elwynn Forest spread out to the east. Now the Giant red and black fortress blocked most of the views to the East and the Seas were filled with an armada of ships, their black sails creating a sea of their own.
But still Andrew found himself there once or twice a year, taking his well earned gold to buy new first aid supplies, potions and ointments. Usually he'd only come for a few days before heading back out into the more isolated towns in the north.
He spent most of his time in Redridge, the most northern of Stormwind's current territory. He'd lived there since as long as he could remember. He supposed he lived elsewhere as a small child, not that he could remember. He'd been found when he was nine or ten, with a small convoy of orphans who had been escaping the uprising in Stormwind. He and the rest of the kids had been taken to a small farm near the lake where they lived and worked with the families who owned the land.
He'd learned early that he had a talent with the light, and a travelling priest had taught him a few healing spells. After that he taught himself everything he knew, working as the local healer for several years. He'd then taken jobs to houses and towns without priests to help heal those who needed it and train those he could. He became something of a travelling priest himself after that, going through Stormwind land to help those he could.
But he hated it. He hated the closed borders and the pretence of peace and prosperity. He heard the whispers of what was happening outside their bubble. People didn't say it outright, but they all knew the truth.
A war on another world, the dead rising in the north, the world tearing itself apart...it was hard to keep these facts from the people. But the Queen had always had the same policy when it came to the problems of the 'outside world'.
It wasn't their problem.
Andrew itched to disobey, to sneak past the border and find a group of rebel humans or Gilneans and blend in - to help protect the people who actually needed it, rather than scraps and bruises of farmers and blacksmiths. He wanted to make a difference...
But it wasn't as simple as that. It he were caught he'd be executed, and he couldn't help anyone if he were dead. Nobody was allowed to leave the borders except for a few exceptions.
It was one of those exceptions that Andrew was trying to extort. The Argent Dawn. Stormwind citizens who were members of the famously neutral group were some of the few allowed to cross the border. Some said it was because Queen Katrana didn't trust them, and didn't want to give them a reason to turn against her.
Either way, if he had papers saying he was with them, he would be allowed to cross the border, and once he made his way to Light's Hope or Hearthglen he could become a member of the order for real. With legitimate papers he could travel almost anywhere! He could go somewhere he could actually make a difference!
He walked through the dark gritty streets of Old Town, the only part of the original city that survived the Horde sack decades before. It was all but abandoned now - only occupied by a few older men and women who had most likely lived there before the sack and stubbornly refused to move into the newer, safer parts of the city.
But the seedy parts of the city were where he would find the kind of people he was looking for - and in particular the person who had information he needed.
He found what he was looking for eventually. It looked like a normal home, cloudy glass windows and rotted wood walls, the edges blackened from the fires that had burned the city. But there was a soil filled pot by the door with a single rose planted in it. He swallowed, and walked forward, knocking on the door.
A moment later it opened, revealing a very large man with blackened charcoal around his eyes and thick metal armbands. Andrew swallowed nervously.
He reached into his pack and pulled out the letter, holding it out to the man. The man took it, looking at the words and then handed it back, nodded and moving to the side so Andrew could pass.
"Thanks," Andrew gave him a small smile that he hoped didn't expose how nervous he was. He knew if he was caught in a place like this it wouldn't be pleasant. If he was lucky he'd been tossed into the Stoackades and forgotten, if he was unlucky they might torture him for information on other establishments like it.
He scanned the inside. There was maybe two dozen different people all mingling and chatting and drinking. Every single person in the room looked like they'd slit his throat for a few copper and not think twice about it. A couple of them gave him curious once overs, before heading back to whatever they were talking about.
Andrew looked around the room, before he spotted someone sitting alone at a table in the corner.
He walked over to them and stood by the table nervously, "Are you Rose?"
The woman looked up. She was beautiful, with loose brown hair and bright eyes, but her face was hard with several scars and piercings and Andrew knew she would kill him without a second thought.
"Sit. Please." She motioned to the spot across from her.
Andrew sighed in relief and sat at the table, still fidgeting as he fought to keep his nerves under control. "You said you could get me papers?"
She arched an eyebrow, "Right to business then? Alright." She reached into her bag and pulled out a scroll, slipping it across the table.
Andrew took the scroll carefully and opened it. He read over the words and gapped at it. It was exactly what he was looking for - an official paper, signed and stamped that declared one part of the Argent Dawn...
"How much?" He asked immediately.
The woman smirked and snatched the scroll out of his hand, "That one's mine. I'm just proving I know where to get them. You need to meet with the Prince if you want one of your own."
"The Prince?" Andrew shook his head in confusion. "What Prince?"
"The Black Prince." She leaned forward, "He can get you what you need."
Andrew frowned. He'd never heard of a Black Prince, but he assumed he was associated with the Black Market. "Alright...where do I find him?"
The woman who called herself Rose, leaned back into her chair, "Lucky for you, the Prince happens to be in Stormwind right now. You can find him in the Old City Library."
"The Library?" Andrew gapped, "That's in the Keep!"
"What?" Rose smirked, "You scared of ghosts?"
Andrew swallowed. The Old Keep was abandoned, half in ruins from the uprisings and empty of life. People avoided it, rumours of curses and ghosts of dead kings being enough to keep people away.
"When?" Andrew swallowed.
Rose stood up, finishing the last of her drink, giving Andrew a flirty smile, "He leaves in a week."
Andrew decided to seek out this 'Black Prince' the next day. He still wasn't sure how much these papers would cost him and he wanted to make sure he had time to procure the funds to pay for them should he need it.
He walked through Old Town, heading towards the small entrance to the keep. The original archway was boarded up, but there was still a small door you could walk through, probably meant for soldiers and servants and others who might need to enter the old keep.
He entered the courtyard, pausing a moment to stare up at the larger than life statue that stood in the middle of a fountain. Vines and other plant life crawled up it, obscuring the bottom half, and only the top of it remained visible. A king stern face peered out over the city, his sword held in a protective stance, as if a promise to always watch over the city and it's people.
Andrew felt a small twinge in his stomach as he looked up, and for a moment he felt his eyes water slightly. He sniffed and blinked rapidly, shaking his head. He must've gotten something in his eyes.
He started his way up the stairs and got to the top, moving to the doors that were firmly closed. For a second he wondered if it was locked. He reached for the metal chain handle and grabbed it, pulling. He let out a breathe as the door lurched open.
He slipped into the building and pulled the door closed behind him. He sneezed as a burst of dust assaulted his senses. He rubbed his nose and walked over to the wall, finding a torch. He grabbed it and with a burst of light from his palm, caught fire to it.
The hall burst into existence from the torch light and Andrew couldn't help but gasp. The floor was a beautiful white marble, covered in a thick layer of dust, disrupted by dozens of foot steps. But it was the walls that caught his attention. A dozen or so giant tapestries, looking like they were made of the finest silk, hung along the corridor heading towards the central hall. He walked over to them, careful to keep his torch away. They showed beautiful scenes of battle and history. One seemed to be a battle between trolls and humans and others, humans against humans. As he travelled further down the hall the scenes became more recent and more recognizable. He saw the first war, and the dark portal in the Black Morass. He saw the battle with the famous Archmage Khadgar and Commander Lothar against the Guardian Medivh. He saw the sacking of Stormwind and the Sacking of Lordaeron and the battle on Blackrock mountain.
It was the last tapestry that made him pause. It seemed to be a family portrait, so finely woven that it had to be done with magic. The picture showed three people, a man with dark hair and a warm face that matched a statue outside. The woman beside him was beautiful with blond hair that fell to her waist, startling green eyes and a wide smile on her face. A golden circlet sat on her brow with a single blue Sapphire in place. Between them was a boy, looking about six or seven, with blond hair like his mother, and blue eyes like his father.
"The Lost Prince."
Andrew jumped, whipping around with a hand pressed to his chest to calm his rapidly beating heart. Standing behind him, just a smidgen too close for comfort, was a man that couldn't be mistaken for anyone other than the Black Prince. His warm brown skin was covered in thick layers of leather and silk embroidered with precious metals and gems. His hair was covered by an ornate turban held in place by a golden band with a long piece of silk trailing down the side of his head and hanging over his shoulder. His eyes were brown but looking at them gave Anduin a headache so he avoided making eye contact.
Andrew swallowed, taking a step backwards, "Er- Hello?"
The man gave him a smile that Andrew supposed was meant to be kind, but he had a strangely predatory look in his eyes that made him look more dangerous than comforting, "I apologize if I startled you."
Andrew took a deep breath, rolling his shoulders, "No, it's fine. I just...didn't hear you come in."
The Prince's lips turned upwards, looking amused, or like he was sharing in a private joke. Then he turned his strange brown eyes to the portrait behind him,
"It's a dream." The Black Prince murmured.
Andrew blinked in confusion, "What?"
"The tapestry." The Prince motioned behind him, making Andrew turn to glance at the image of the Royal Family behind him, "Do you notice anything strange about it?"
Andrew sighed. He didn't particularly want to play games, but the man was willing to sell him highly illegal forged papers, so he felt like he could indulge him for a while. He turned and looked over the image, trying to spot whatever it was the Black Prince had noticed.
It didn't take long.
"The Queen." Andrew whispered, looking at he beautiful blonde woman, "She died when the Prince was a baby..."
"Yes." The Black Prince nodded, "This tapestry was commissioned by the King at the height of his depression. Some said he was delusional, thinking his wife was still alive. But those who knew him well knew it was a political move, mainly aimed at those who wanted him to remarry."
"And did you?" Andrew asked, looking at the Black Prince, "Know him well?"
"Me?" The Prince looked amused, "Hardly. But I know those who did. People who knew the young Prince as well."
Andrew turned and looked at the tapestry again. He knew of the supposed mystery of the Lost Prince. There were those who said that the Prince had survived the uprising, and had been taken from the Keep and hidden away. He knew dozens of people came forward every year claiming to be the supposed Lost Prince, but none of them looked like the blonde haired youth in the tapestry. No wonder the Queen hadn't been fooled.
"And what do you think?" The Black Prince asked.
Andrew furrowed his eyebrows, "About what?"
"The Lost Prince." The man was smirking now, and Andrew suddenly felt he didn't have all the information required for this conversation.
Andrew shrugged, "He's dead. He's buried beside his father and mother, it's not a secret or anything."
The Black Prince nodded his head, "That's true, but what if the tomb was empty?"
Andrew had heard that theory plenty too, "Well unless someone digs it up and checks, or the supposed Prince is found, then it doesn't really matter does it?"
"I suppose." The Prince nodded, that stupid smirk still on his face. He took a step back, looking up at the picture, "You look like him."
"The prince?" Andrew asked, looking back. He supposed he did - the same hair and eye colour, the same nose and face shape although less burdened by the softness of youth.
"No." The Black Prince chuckled, "The King."
Andrew startled, looking up at the kind face that made him stomach bubble with some sort of excitement or apprehension - he wasn't sure which. He could see what the man meant - they had the same nose and same eyebrows, and eyes.
"Shall we head to the library then?"
Andrew turned to give the Prince a suspicious glance at the rapid subject change, but then nodded, and started to walk with the man.
The sound of their foot steps was the only sound that echoed through the large empty halls, shadows clinging to the corners and flickering from the flaming torch. They entered the main central hall and Andrew stopped, staring at the throne. It wasn't very ornate, a simple marble chair craved from a single slab with two roaring lions on each side with a stained glass window behind it reaching it to top of the room and two long blue and gold hanging tapestries on either side. For a moment he saw a flash of a man in strong armour and a golden circlet sitting in the throne with a small child on his lap, both smiling wildly. The man, laughing at a story the child told, suddenly looked up and made eye contact with Andrew. His eyes crinkled into a kind smile.
Andrew shook his head, and when he glanced back the chair was dark, dusty and empty again.
Without another word he made a left, heading outside. The inner courtyard had long since grown over, with weeds and vines and fallen stones covering the area. A few trees were growing and somehow Andrew knew they hadn't been there before. He passed by them and walked into the entrance to the library.
He paused when he entered, surprised to see hundreds, if not thousands of books on shelves that seemed to go on forever. Dust and cob webs covered the chairs and tables which were littered with papers and books which looked like they belong to those who had been here during the uprising. Items left behind as their owners ran for safety.
"The books are still here?" Andrew seemed surprised, "Why haven't they been moved?"
The Black Prince chuckled, "There's dangerous information in these books. The Queen hardly needs them, but here they stay out of the hands of the public."
"Hmm." Andrew walked along a shelf rubbing a finger along the spines. He pulled away and rubbed the dust off his fingers. He turned around the face the so-called Prince, who had collapsed into a chair, his feet propped up on the table, "I've been told you can get me Argent Dawn papers."
"They're called the Argent Crusade now, but you can't really be held accountable for the lack of information - all things considering." The Black Prince reached into his thick leather jacket which, on the closer inspection, seemed to be covered with raven feathers. He pulled out two different scrolls, placing them down on the table, "Basic papers cost five hundred. Papers with recommendations and credentials cost two thousand. All purchases are done with the utmost discretion...on both sides."
"Of course." Andrew nodded, looking at the papers hungrily. "What kind of credentials?"
"Stamps from various campaigns, proof of previous services, etcetera, etcetera." He waved his hand, "The first will get you across the border, the second will get you into basically any Alliance land in Azeroth, even some Horde ones."
Andrew eyed it - that was what he needed. It could save him time and effort in building a name for himself. But two thousand? There was no way he had that kind of money.
"I can't afford it." He admitted to the Prince, "I'll take the cheaper option. Can I return in a few days time?"
"Of course." The Black Prince smirked, "Oh how much easier it was when Stormwind had open borders."
"I wouldn't know." Andrew shrugged, "I was too young, I have no memories of that time."
"None?" The Black Prince lowered his feet and stood up in a single smoother motion, "How curious. You couldn't have been that young during the uprising."
Andrew frowned, reaching up to touch the back of his head instinctively, "I got a pretty nasty head injury during the riots. I woke up two weeks later in Redridge without any memories."
The Prince's eyes lightened, "You don't say? None at all?"
"Not even my name." Andrew shrugged, "I choose this one."
"Fascinating." The Prince seemed surprised, and hungry. "A young boy who vanished during the uprising, and a young boy who shows up hundreds of leagues away with no memories."
Andrew sighed, a burst of annoyance erupting through him, "Look, can we stop with the innuendo? If you have a point, make it."
The Black Prince still looked amused, walking around him with that predatory look in his eyes, "Very well then. What if i said, I thought that you were the Lost Prince."
Andrew sputtered, blinking at the black Prince wildly. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, but that hadn't been it, "I'd say that you're insane."
"Debatable." The Prince didn't look surprised by his response, "I suppose it must seem rather insane, but I have my reasons."
Andrew narrowed his eyes, scoffing. He crossed his arms, "Like what?"
"I've been looking for the Lost Prince for a long time." Wrathion explained nonchalantly, like it was a perfectly normal past time like painting or writing. "And I've seen hundreds of people claiming to be him - whether they want fame or money or power, but they've all made the same single mistake."
Andrew rolled his eyes, crossing his arms, "What is that?"
"They've never seen the Prince." The Black Prince smirked, "Easy to overlook really, since Queen Katrana destroyed every image of the young prince - lucky for us, she left the Keep intact - including the portrait of the royal family. Maybe she overlooked it, maybe she didn't think anyone would think to come to such a horribly haunted place." He looked at Andrew like they were sharing an inside joke, "Lucky for us. So, while every jacked up warrior type with long dark hair claims to be the lost prince I spent my time looking for someone who actually matched his appearance."
"And what?" Andrew held out his hands in exasperation, "I'm the only person in Stormwind with blond hair and blue eyes?"
"The only one who was orphaned after the riots and conveniently lost their memories of their entire childhood life, coming up with only the name...Andrew?"
Andrew paused, hesitating at the somewhat logical argument. He had to admit that it was kind of suspicious. He had never thought much about his life before Redridge - or of any potential memories he'd lost. He'd always figured his parents had either died in the riots or he'd been a orphan with the church. Nobody had ever come looking for him. But what if this Black Prince was right? It wasn't really any less likely than any other option, was it?
He shook his head, "No, this is insane. I'm not some...bloody Prince, and if I was I'm sure someone else would have noticed. It's not like I've never been to the city before. I just want to buy some papers."
"Very well." The Black Prince folded easily, too easily. Andrew narrowed his eyes at him, "I'll be leaving the city in five days. I'll be heading to Theramore then, and probably won't be returning for some time."
"I'll bring the money before then." Andrew straightened his clothes, "Five hundred."
Andrew sighed, feeling a headache forming.
The Black Prince smirked, "If you were to, say, indulge me, and travel with me to Theramore, I could be convinced to give you the Recommendation Papers at a...reduced price."
Andrew paused, chewing his lip, "What kind of discount?"
The Black Prince gave him a feral grin, "Four Hundred."
Andrew felt his mouth drop open. That was cheaper than the regular papers! And, what? He'd have to travel to Theramore to figure out if he was this dead prince?
But how long would that take? A year? Maybe more...
"Thanks, but no thanks." Andrew shook his head, "I want to help people, I want to go where I'm needed and nobody needs me here right now. Nobody needs a dead Prince."
The Black Prince tilted his head, studying Andrew like he was some sort of strange insect.
"I'll be back in three days with the money." Andrew snapped, feeling his patience run out.
And without another word he stormed out of the Keep.
Wrathion watched the young man leave with an air of frustration. He supposed that after all these years it wouldn't be easy now. He was taking a risk staying in the city as long as he was - but he felt like he would need extra time to...convince, young Andrew.
Left and Right came out of the Shadows, watching him with equally blank expressions.
"What now?" Right asked.
Wrathion shifted his jaw as he thought - Andrew wanted to 'help' people. He just needed to convince him that becoming the Lost Prince was the best way to do this.
"Have you heard from Dorian recently?" He asked, a thought building in his mind.
Left stepped forward, nodding her head, "Yes, I believe so."
He felt a dark smirk rise over his lips, his eyes burning a bright red as he looked over the library.
Yes. This would work out well...
Andrew grunted as he lifted the chest in his small room at the inn. He'd taken out his savings from the local bank, and had hidden it deep in his travelling trunk. It was just over five hundred gold. He counted out enough for the papers and frowned at what he had left. It wasn't a lot, but hopefully it would be enough to get him to Hearthglen or Light's Hope.
For a moment he thought about how much better off he'd be if he had one hundred extra gold, but quickly tossed that idea away - it wasn't worth it. It would be such a waste of time just too sooth the itch of a man who obviously had more money than he needed.
He tossed his trunk into the corner of the room - he wouldn't bring it with him. He'd pack light, a sack or two, clothing and the tools of his trades. He put the money into a nondescript sack, knowing that people would do worse than murder to get their hands on such a sum. He'd been saving up pretty much his entire life to get that much money, but it was worth it - with these papers he could get the hell out of Stormwind, and hopefully never come back.
He left his room, hoping to find a pub to drown himself in. He had had a near constant headache ever since talking with the so-called Black Prince, and he very much wanted to forget the entire encounter.
He walked through the streets, which had emptied as the sun set. A few people still wandered around. People heading home after a long day at work, street walkers and a few homeless people holding out their tins, a few of which Andrew tossed coppers in. More than once he stopped the help people with injuries and most likely couldn't afford a healer. All in all it took about half an hour to get to the Dwarven District.
As he approached the bar he usually frequented during his stays in the city, he started to notice a commotion on the street. He frowned as he approached, trying to get an idea of what was going on.
"She's a witch!" A man screamed on the street, his eyes red and pupils heavily dilated as he stumbled around the street. His clothes hung off his emaciated frame and his hair was long and greasy, "The queen's a witch!"
Andrew winced, looking around to see the reaction.
"All woman are witches, don't make her special!" Someone from a nearby group shouted, making a round of laughter echo around the street.
Andrew huffed, annoyed that people were harassing a man who was very obviously not well.
"She's a tyrant!" The man screamed, "You don't see it! We're all prisoners in our own walls! You've been brainwashed!"
The group grumbled and started to disperse. Andrew looked around nervously. It was one of the things that everyone knew, but you didn't say out loud. He decided to let the crazy man be and head into the bar.
"She's bewitched you all!" He man continued to scream, "But the Prince will save us! The Prince will come back! Long live King Wrynn!"
Oh great. Andrew felt his headache coming back. This was the last thing he needed. Without another word he raised his hood as if someone else might mistake him as the Prince yet again. He just wanted a drink...
"Long Live King Wrynn! Long Live King Wrynn!" The man continued to chant. The crowd was starting to get a bit nervous. They were quickly dispersing, exchanging glances as they wandered back into the pub.
"Long Live King Wrynn! LONG LIVE KING WRYNN!"
Andrew turned and inwardly groaned. Two soldiers, wearing the black and red tabards of the city guard were forcing their way through the crowd.
The last stragglers seemed to run off, with only a handful of people including Andrew waiting around to see what would happen. Looking at the men holding the handles of their swords, he had a feeling someone was going to need a healer soon.
"You!" The homeless man shouted, pointing a shaky finger at the guards, "The queen's little bees. You buzz buzz buzz, and sting sting sting. But you're just as bad as her. The usurper will fall. The Prince will come again."
"Will he now?" One guard chuckled, raising an eyebrow. Then he pulled back his plate covered fist and punched the man in the face, causing him to collapse to the ground.
"Hey!" Andrew shouted, despite knowing it was a bad idea, "What're you doing?"
The soldiers went over to the fallen man and started to kick him. The man kept shouting, "The prince will come, the Prince will come, the Prince will come!"
Andrew looked around, but nobody was coming to his aide. They were averting their eyes, pretending they didn't see.
Finally a well placed kick at the man's head shut him up and Andrew felt a burst of rage.
He leapt forward, grabbing the hand of one of the soldiers and pulling him away, "Enough!" He shouted.
Everything went silent as they stared at him. Andrew blinked, pausing as he looked around the square. He hadn't really thought this through...
"He's had enough." He repeated, glaring at the guard, "He's obviously crazy. Leave him be."
The solider he was holding was silent for a moment. Andrew couldn't see his face, but he heard it when he started to laugh.
"Leave him be?" The solider asked, his voice much deeper than what seemed natural, "Alright..."
Andrew released his arm and the Solider paused for a moment, before raising his fist and slamming it into Andrew's face. Andrew didn't feel pain so much as see it as his vision went red and he collapsed onto the ground.
He groaned, struggling to get up. He felt two arms wrap under his armpits and start to drag him away from the guards, "Come on Kid." The mystery man grunted as he pulled Andrew back into the crowd.
"Anyone else?" The solider shouted to the crowd. Nobody said anything. Andrew felt that he would have said someone unflattering about the man's mother if he wasn't still dazed. The solider spat on the ground and turned to the other, "Let's go."
Andrew watched helpless as they picked up the homeless man, slung his unconscious body over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and walked away.
"You're brave, Kid. Or an idiot."
Andrew blinked through watery eyes at the man who had pulled him away from the soldiers, "What?"
The man chuckled, "Come on then - let's get you a drink."
Andrew held his head back, a rag holding ice pressed against his face. He'd healed his broken nose but he had a feeling he would have a double black eye for a day or so until his inner light healed it. His nose had only just stopped bleeding.
"Hand me that." Andrew grabbed the large pint of ale and started to chug, hoping it would dull the pain.
The man who had dragged him off the street sat across from him. He was an older man, with dark greying hair and a sharp jaw. He had a large crooked nose which had obviously been broken more than once and his skin was tanned and a bit leathery - obviously someone who spent a lot of time in the sun.
"Who're you?" Andrew asked, wondering why the man had decided to help him. The solider's could've tried to make an example out of both of them.
The man shifted his jaw side to side, drinking something of his own which smelt much stronger than ale, "Dorian." He grunted.
"Oh." Andrew mumbled, and he placed the ice back on his face, "Well...thank you Dorian."
The man watched him with beady black eyes, before pointing at him, "You're not from the city, are you?"
"No." Andrew shrugged, wrinkling his nose a bit, "I've been here a few times, but never very long."
"I can tell." Dorian grumbled. He waved to a serving girl to bring him another drink and turned back to him, "What you did was stupid Kid."
"Thanks," He grumbled, "I figured that."
"I don't think you realize how stupid." Dorian continued, winking at the server as she placed a glass in front of him, "You've been marked. They'll be watching you now - I suggest leaving, and soon."
"I am." Andrew muttered, not sure how he felt about being watched, "I'm a priest, I'm just in town to get supplies."
"Good." Dorian down his entire drink in a single go, "I'd stay away for a couple months at least. Maybe a year. That should be enough time for things to calm down."
Andrew snorted, "I just...can't believe it. He wasn't hurting anyone. Nobody was taking him seriously. He was obviously insane."
"That doesn't matter." Dorian rolled his eyes at Andrew, "Don't be naive, you don't speak wrongly of the Queen. Remember, it was an organized mob against the crown that killed the last royal family. Katrana isn't stupid enough to let that happen again."
Andrew winced. The riots. It had started simply enough, a dispute between the Stonemason's guild and the Nobles over the cost of rebuilding the city. Smaller protests and riots had occurred, and Queen Tiffin Wrynn had died during them. The King had gone into a deep depression, and the current Queen, then Lady Katrana, had taken up most of the ruling of the kingdom. Then, ten years ago, food started to become scarce. Lots of the farmland had turned to plagueland, and a famine had hit Westfall hard. People started to become disillusioned with the king, and the Defias brotherhood, born of the Stonemason's guild, used the peoples hunger to rally them against the crown. It had gotten worse and worse until things had come to a head - the crowd, helped by members of the city guard which had turned against the king - stormed the castle. It had been a massacre, and the violence soon spilled out into the streets. Thousands had died and large parts of the city had burned.
The next day Katrana Prestor had announced that the King, and his son the Prince, were dead - along with nearly every prominent noble family. With the Council of Nobles, and the King, dead there hadn't been a clear line of succession. It had been a simple process of naming Katrana Prestor the new queen. It made sense after all - she'd been practically ruling the kingdom for years anyways.
But it hadn't taken long for people to understand how different this was. She had never rebuilt the council of nobles, and with nobody to answer to, she had unchecked power to do what she pleased. Food appeared rather quickly, much to the people's suspicion, and she closed off the borders of Stormwind lands - cutting all diplomatic ties to the rest of the Alliance.
The man on the street had been right about one thing at least - they were all basically prisoners in their own homes.
"It doesn't matter." Andrew shrugged, "I'm heading north anyways. I'm joining the Argent Crusade. I'm a Priest."
"Well good luck to yeah." Dorian grumbled, "They need all the help they can get. God knows Katrana won't send any."
Andrew was starting to get a bit nervous, glancing around nervously. He was talking rather loudly.
"Don't worry about it Kid." Dorian waved his hand, "There's no love lost for the Queen here. The guards stay on the streets unless someone calls them in."
Andrew nodded, drinking again, "If the people aren't content, some rambling idiot on the street isn't going to make things worse - and if they're happy he couldn't rally them. They had no reason to do that - they're supposed to protect people."
"Must be nice." Dorian mumbled, "In your head. The guards are't guards so much as Katrana's enforcers."
Andrew scoffed, "How can you be okay with this?" He wasn't sure how he'd never really been made aware of this. He'd spent most of his time in the country, away from borders and major towns and cities. Even the time he'd spent in Stormwind in the past had been brief - in fact this was the longest amount of time he'd ever spent there.
"Nobody is okay with it." Dorian chuckled, "But we don't have much of a choice do we? There isn't anyone else with a claim strong enough - the rest of the Alliance can't be bothered to help us. I think most people are just waiting for her to die and pray that her successor is better than her."
Andrew shook his head. How could people live like this? Being forced to trade happiness and freedom for food and healthy living. "It's better in the country, people are a bit more supportive of her I think, probably because they can't see the evidence of her tyranny right in their face."
"Yeah well." The man shrugged, "There's a reason why the whole 'Lost Prince' rumour has so much traction. The idea of a mysterious hero, willing to come and save the people is very attractive to people who have very little to hope for."
Andrew shuffled, taking a big drink of beer, "Yeah well..."
"Especially since no one's seen a body." Dorian continued, uninterrupted, "And I don't just mean in gossip - I was here after all." He raised his glass of amber liquid, "They never showed the kid's body. Said it was too gruesome, and it was considered a tragic accident at the time - people loved the prince." He scoffed, "Let me tell you, it was no accident the Prince 'died', and no accident every noble in the keep died too. Katrana couldn't have anyone challenging her claim to the throne."
Andrew once again thought they might be approaching dangerous territory and shifted his eyes, keeping his voice low, "You think she arranged the famine...was working with he Defias, all so she could become the queen?"
Dorian had a small sardonic grin on his face, like he knew more than he was letting on, "It's not so much a secret amongst the people who know better. Apparently she arranged the murder of the Queen, knowing it would make the King easier to control, but ten years in he was starting to gain control over his depression - Stormwind was thriving, they were making new alliances with the Dwarves and the Night Elves...it was all going perfectly until the famine hit."
Nothing the man said really surprised him - it was all in the gossip and rumours and mutterings one could find across the kingdom.
But he felt a sort of sinking feeling in his stomach. Maybe he was needed here more than he thought - how many people had he healed on the way here? How may more people would suffer abuse at the hands of those sworn to protect them?
But there wasn't anything he could really do here - heal the odd vagrant perhaps - but if he stood up for injustice he'd only end up loosing his head.
Andrew shook his head, grabbing the ale to finish it. His nose and head were throbbing and he knew he should start on the long walk back to his inn. Hopefully this face will have finished healing by morning.
He moved to grab his coin purse but Dorian held out his hand, "Nah, it's on me Kid. You've had a shitty enough day as it is."
"Tell me about it." Andrew grumbled, not arguing. He slipped his purse back into his belt and stood up, "Well, thank you again."
"No problem, Anduin." The man waved him off.
Andrew didn't even notice he'd been called the wrong name as he stumbled out of the bar and back to his inn.
Halfway back to his Inn he found the body of the man, strung up and hanging from an overpassing stone bridge. His face was bloodied and his eyes wide and bloodshot.
Hanging around his neck was a wooden sign, words written in the man's blood.
Andrew felt sick. He looked around and saw various people walking home - a few sent nervous glances at the body, but nobody did anything...nobody could do anything...
He shook his head. He couldn't do anything either. He walked forward, holding his hand up to the hanging body, whispering a prayer under his breathe, hoping that the man would find the peace in death that he hadn't been able to see in life. He didn't care if it marked him further - he deserved that much.
He felt the eyes of people watching him - but he ignored them. He threw up his hood and started on his way back to his room, trying not to think about the man hanging from the bridge, who would be visible to the morning rush in just a few short hours.
Andrew walked into the keep the next day. He'd been planning on staying another day to buy supplies but after the night before it seemed prudent to leave as soon as possible. He'd buy more supplies in Goldshire before he headed north.
His footsteps echoed in the halls as he walked, and it felt like the eyes on the tapestries were following him as he did so - judging him. He ignored them, and kept his eyes strictly forward, especially as he passed the beautifully embroidered portrait of the royal family. Even as he passed he thought he could feel the eyes of the king watching him as he walked. He rolled his shoulders a few times to try and shake the feeling and continued on his way, trying to remember the path to the library.
The door was open and Andrew walked in, scanning the room until he saw the form of the Black Prince reading a book in the corner. Andrew stormed up and the Prince actually startled at the sound, blinking at him rapidly before he snapped the book shut, a burst of dust filling the air.
"Andrew." The Black Prince smirked, looking pleased, "I wasn't expecting you until tomorrow."
Andrew stopped, his mind in a whirlwind, "I found myself needing to leave town a bit early."
"Ah." The Prince nodded, "The issue with the beggar."
Andrew narrowed his eyes at the Prince, who kicked his feet up onto the table, "How did you know about that?"
"Let's just say the Queen isn't the only one with spies in the city." The man smirked, "But you are correct, they're keeping a close eye on you. Best you get out while you still can."
Andrew took out the sack of money, dropping it down on the table, "Five hundred."
The back prince didn't move to take it, just looking at the sack from his seated position. Wordlessly he reached into his robe and pulled out a single parchment scroll tied with a black ribbon. He held it out and Andrew moved to take it, but The Black Prince yanked it out of reach.
"Last chance." The Prince raised an eyebrow in question.
Andrew cursed himself for hesitating. No, he wasn't going traipsing across the world for a dream. If the lost prince was still alive, he obviously had no intention of coming home.
'Unless he's right', a horrible part of his brain said.
'What if he is?'
Well, he's not.
'But if he was? Remember what they said? The Prince is the only one with a stronger claim to the throne than the queen! You could stop her!'
Andrew shook his head and reached forward, snatching the scroll out of the Black Prince's hand, without another word he turned away and started to storm out.
He expected for the Black Prince to say something, to call after him or at the very least say goodbye. But there was only silence behind him as he left the library and started to make his way down the massive halls of the keep.
'You could make a difference.'
"Only if I'm the prince." He spoke out loud, "And I'm not..."
He was nearing the entrance to the keep when he felt himself slowing down, coming to a complete stop. From the doorway he could see the ugly towering black spires of the Queen's Citadel, large red banners hanging down the sides looking like blood pouring down the walls.
If he was the King, the first thing he'd do would be to tear it down...
He swallowed, speaking out loud again, "If I was the Prince, I could make a real difference...but I'm not..."
'How do you know...'
Andrew blinked, looking at the large entrance, and then down to the scroll in his hands...
He groaned out loud, "Son of a bitch..."
He turned around and started to march back to the library. He cursed under his breathe when he saw the Black Prince hadn't moved, and just had his hands resting on his chest, an amused glance on his face.
"Do you really think I'm this...prince?" Andrew demanded of him.
The Black Prince nodded, "I do."
"Why?" Andrew scoffed, "You've said I look like him and that I'm an orphan and all this other nonsense but there's got to be something..."
"You had a head injury, right?" The Black Prince tapped his temple, "That's why you don't have your memory?"
"I...yes." Andrew nodded, "The healers said it looked like I'd been hit over the head with a hammer."
"Exactly." The Black Prince took a few steps closer to him, "Little known fact - the young prince was killed by a blow to the head, or at least that's what the Queen said, after all..."
"No one's seen the body." Andrew mumbled to himself, pieces coming together in his head. It made a sick sort of sense, if the queen had lost the Prince she wouldn't want anyone to know. And of course the Prince wouldn't have reappeared if he was stuck in some farm in Redridge without a hint of his past...
He swallowed hard, narrowing his eyes at the Black Prince, "I'm not saying I believe you...but if I am the Prince, well...maybe I'd like to know."
"Perfect!" The Black Prince clapped is hands together, a large smile bursting across his face. "I knew you'd come around! I've got everything settled already, tickets, papers, the works!"
"Er..." Andrew wasn't sure what to say, a bit surprised by the Black Prince's enthusiasm, "Alright...when do we leave?"
"We'll head out tomorrow morning." He walked over and threw an arm around Andrew's neck, "I have a few people coming with us, additional security."
The Black Prince beamed as they exited the library, "I think this is the start of a beautiful partnership Anduin."
Andrew wrinkled his nose, "Don't call me that." The Black Prince chuckled, but didn't argue. Andrew frowned at him for a moment, "What do I call you? Other than 'The Black Prince'."
"Hmm?" The man looked suddenly concerned, but gave him a fixed look, "Call me Wrathion."
Wrathion. A Dragon name if he'd ever heard one. Andrew narrowed his eyes at him, wondering how worried he should be. But after some deliberation he decided that for now he really didn't want to know. Let him keep his secrets. For now.
"Well then, Wrathion." Andrew unhook the man's arm from his shoulders and turned to give him a tight smile. He still wasn't sure what he felt about the man. He did seem to want change in Stormwind, but somehow Andrew doubted it was for the same reason he did, "I will meet you tomorrow?"
"Dwarven District, we're taking the tram." Wrathion's eyes flared red for a moment and Andrew could have sworn a line of smoke escaped his mouth as he smirked. Now that he thought about it, he wouldn't be surprised if there would be two dark dragon horns underneath his gilded turban. "Pack for a long journey."
"Looking forward too it." Andrew mumbled.
"Me too, Andrew...me too..."
After Andrew left, Wrathion felt a deadly grin spread across his face. He tilted his head to the side, whistling a small tune as he walked back into the keep - taking a different route than the one to the library.
He found a small room near the old thone room. There was a large table with a map pinned to it with a map of Azeroth - an outdated one at that. It was covered in dusty figures and old ink marks and you could barely make out the names written out in beautiful calligraphy. Wrathion tapped his fingers along the edge of the table as he walked around it, his eyes searched the room until he landed in a corner, seemingly empty and unassuming.
"Good work." He spoke softly, his red eyes piercing through the shadows.
A man appeared from the darkness, leaning against the wall, crossing his arms, "Seems like a good kid."
"Yes, he does." Wrathion agreed, studying his nails which had now grown out into claws. He saw no need to hide them anymore.
Dorian kicked off the wall and walked past him, his face blank as always, "It's a shame."
"It really is." Wrathion picked up an Alliance lion figure from the map, studying it.
Dorian shook his head, "I really hope you know what you're doing here."
"Of course." Wrathion snorted, dropping the lion back to the table, watching it crack. "It's an unfortunate sacrifice, but one that must be made."
"Well leave me out of it." Dorian grumbled, moving to stand beside him, "Now, where is my payment for walking that boy to his death?"
Wrathion rolled his eyes and tossed the sack of gold Andrew had paid him onto the table. He hardly needed the money after all.
Dorian saluted him and grabbed the sack, leaving without another word.
Wrathion watched him leave, shaking his head lightly. Dorian was a reliable man, but he let his pesky morals get in the way. Wrathion had morals too, but he could push they away, compartmentalize them, to do what needed to be done.
He looked up at the large portrait of the King, who seemed to be looking down at him with angry eyes and Wrathion huffed.
"Get over yourself, Your Majesty." He muttered to the empty room, wondering if he'd gone crazy, "I'm on your side after all."
A/N: Don't have enough time to write? How about you start a new series that'll help. I've been promising this fic for AGES and here's the first chapter! I probably won't update this one as often as Light Handed, but I'll still work on it periodically.
This story is pretty AU, but a few major differences to the canon are: Wrathions age: he's a bit older here, born just before Vanilla. And Theramore still around. I liked Theramore.
Until Next Time,