Authors Note: Hi, hello, welcome to this fic. Why am I here, you ask? Great question. Solid question. I blame years of head cannons about a video game I've been playing on and off for over a decade. Also whoever decided to make Anduin Wyrnn so beautiful and perfect. WoW cannon is weird, okay, so I may choose to ignore or mess around with it. Maybe not always on purpose, but in my defense there is -a lot- of it. On that note, I aged Anduin up for this story- cannon has him around 13ish for Pandaria, I have him at 16 because it felt right. Also, if Arya Stark can be a sword master at like 12, Veralynn can be more than competent at 16. Fight me.
Chapter One: Parental Interference
"A-are you sure this is a good idea?" Jaret asked, flushed and sweating in the oppressive heat of the little storage closet where Vera had dragged him. It was the height of summer and the harbor of Stormwind was sweltering.
Vera rolled her eyes, pushing the sticky mass of her hair firmly over her shoulder, and tugged him down toward her by his bare shoulder.
"Of course I'm sure, let just finish this already," she cooed. They were so close to being done, just a few more strokes and it would all be over. "We've been working toward it for hours now."
"But if the Admiral finds out-"
Vera winced a bit as he moved again. "He won't, okay? He'll never know it was you. He doesn't return to the city till tomorrow so we have plenty of time-"
"To come up with what I am sure would have been a very convincing story."
Jaret made a strangled noise and fell backward off the half barrel he'd been sitting on, ink and several small blades clattering across wooden floor boards. Her father, Admiral Henry Taylor, stood framed in the door wearing his full regalia.
"A-Admiral Taylor!" Jaret half shouted, voice cracking as he sprang to his feet. There was black ink seeping into his trousers as he pressed a fist to his chest. His face was so red Vera couldn't help but snort into her hand. She immediately turned it into a cough at the expression on her father's face, however.
"You and I will have words later, Mr. Drew, you are dismissed." His tone was crisp, dangerous.
"O-of course, Admiral, sir, right away -uh, Admiral," Jaret gathered up his tools haphazardly, leaving the ink pot for dead, and fled without a backward glance. Vera's eyes narrowed, already planning revenge for such a betrayal. The coward.
Her father closed the door ominously and Vera tried for her most charming smile as she tugged her sleeve down over her arm, repressing a winch as the rough cloth of her tunic rubbed against raw flesh. "Heeeeey, dad, wasn't expecting you until-"
"Tomorrow," he said curtly, eyes narrowing and lips pursing beneath his golden mustache. "Yes, I heard."
He looked pointedly at her arm. "Sixteen is a little young for a tattoo, don't you think?" His voice was laced with steel and Vera swallowed.
A smarter person would have been contrite. Vera has never been particularly smart. "Didn't you get your first when you were thirteen?"
Her father absently shifted his Admiral's cap beneath his other arm -a move which was a clear indication of his agitation- and pinched the bridge of his nose in a bid for patience. "I was raised by pirates, Vera, forgive me if I wanted just a bit better for you."
She rose to her feet and pouted up at him in the way that always got him smiling. "Oh come on dad, all the other ship hands have tattoos and we hardly see Jaret anymore and he's the best and I wanted to get something special."
Her father groaned. "Please tell me it is not a scantily clad woman or some Horde nonsense that is meant to be ironic but is really just offensive."
Vera snorted. "Oh come on, I'm hardly that tasteless. I'd save the naked ladies for-" she cleared her throat as her father fixed her with a decidedly unamused expression. "Look!" she said instead, lifting her sleeve and grimacing at a smear of blood that she hastily wipes away. On her right bicep was their family crest and, despite Jaret's hesitance -and quick departure-, the artwork is top notch. The crossed swords over an ocean with an anchor between them were rendered in clear, sharp black lines with light shading that made it stand out against her tanned skin. The ink she'd saved up for for over half a year was spelled to glimmer iridescent in the light, giving it a pearlescent quality. The very same ink that was currently seeping through the floorboards; she suppressed a pained noise, mentally determined to collect the difference from Jaret when -if- she ever saw him again.
Her father glanced at her arm briefly and sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. "Well, at least its not… terrible."
Vera smirked and let her sleeve drop. "So, you like it?"
He glared down at her. "I don't hate it, lets not push it."
Vera clapped her hands in delight -and victory. A victory that she realized quickly was going to be short lived judging by the dark gleam in her father's eye.
"But you still have latrine duty for the next month-"
"But Dad!" she protested, "I was just promoted to Cadet Captain!" The idea of being forced to mop up the latrines and haul buckets of shit in front of the new cadets made her want to die. She already got enough flack for being the Admiral's daughter.
"In that case, lets make it two months, just to ensure you set a fine example for our new recruits."
Vera deflated, moaning her defeat.
Her father patted her cheerfully on the head. "Be sure to rub oil on that thing, wouldn't want it to dry out and ruin it. What a shame that would be, eh?"
She was snoring peacefully in her bunk -carefully avoiding her right side- when Captain Rutherford shook her awake, leather gloved hand gripping her directly on her still tender tattoo. Vera hissed into consciousness.
"Wha- is it my watch already?" she grumbled, scrambling upright, heart lurching. She hadn't missed a watch since her first year of training and weeks of scrubbing the deck with the world's smallest brush had been lesson enough.
Their training captain steadied her on her feet and shook her head, her thin lips pressed into a tight line. "Your father has asked for you."
Vera's heart fell as she craned back to peer through the spaces between the window slats of the barracks. It's pitch black outside and, judging by the street lanterns, morning was still hours away. "Is everything alright?"
"There's been orders from the king and your father wants you, that's all I know."
Vera swallowed against a sandy throat, catching her thick, curling black hair up in a messy bun and girding her metaphorical loins. "Right, okay. Did he send the carriage?"
The captain nodded. "Yes, its waiting. Send word if you won't be at morning charge."
Vera wiggled awkwardly into her trousers and reached for her boots. "Aye, Captain."
Rutherford paused at the door, her scarred face falling a bit. "And Taylor?"
"Tell your father to take care…whatever it is."
Its a sharp reminder of what it meant to be summoned by the king in the middle of the night. It had happened to her father on several occasions over the years, and none of them had been for a friendly chat over tea and biscuits, that was for damn sure. The last time had resulted in her father being sent away for over a year.
Vera managed a sharp nod before the older woman disappeared into the hall.
Several of her bunk mates offered similar sentiments, lethargic with sleep, as she gathered her cloak by the door and hurried into the heavy night air. She tried to ignore the way the hair had risen along her arms and neck and the sick feeling that was growing rapidly in the pit of her stomach.
The carriage, much to her shock, stopped in the main courtyard of the Keep instead of their family home in Old Town. A weary looking valet was waiting at the front steps and she vaguely wishes she'd bothered to glance in a mirror as she nervously fingers the ring in her nose and tucks loose curls behind her ears. She usually takes her piercings out -she has one in her lip as well- whenever she's dragged to the court. Which was rare, to be fair, but had been known to happen occasionally, usually for some award ceremony for her father or some ball or party she hadn't managed to wiggle her way out of as the Admiral's daughter. Last Winter Solstice had been a disaster. Half the allure of being made Captain was to have an even better excuse to avoid all hint of dresses and finery.
"This way, Miss Taylor," the valet said, giving her a once over while wearing an expression that solidified her certainty that she was, in fact, very under dressed. She scowled at him. It wasn't as if she'd asked to be dragged out of her bed in the middle of the fucking night.
Please don't let it be the king, pretty, pretty please, she prayed as she followed the valet across the courtyard and into a torch lit hallway. They passed through a dizzying array of hallways before they at last come to a door flanked by two fully armored guards.
It was, of course, the king. She hesitated at the threshold as she silently observed her father and the king huddled over a large table covered in maps, papers, inkwells and quills. The valet, in a shocking display of cruelty, shoved her forward squarely between her shoulder blades. The door closed decisively behind her.
Her muttered curse drew the attention of both men and she straightened sharply enough that it twinged her back a bit. Unsure whether to bow or curtsy -she'd been wearing a gown on the few occasions she'd interacted with the king but it seemed stupid to curtsy in trousers- she fell somewhere awkwardly between the two. Her father looked pained as he rose quickly to his feet.
"Ah, Veralynn, come in, come in. The king has something he wishes to ask of you."
She looked between her father's wide smile and the king's stern face and floundered. "Ah, he, uh, does?"
Her father pulled her gently forward as the king assessed her. Varian Wrynn was… intimidating, to put it mildly. Tall, muscled, scarred, and with steely blue eyes that seemed to burn through anyone and everything. She had the strangest urge to cross her arms over her chest as if that might prevent him from seeing straight into her soul.
The king's eyes narrowed slightly as he took her in. She forced herself to remain at attention and not nervously tuck her hair back where it had fallen into her face.
"Your father tells me you are quite handy with a blade and are well on your way to being made Captain when you're of age," he said at last, tone deceptively casual.
Vera shot her father an uncertain glance, looking for some kind of helpful hint on how she was meant to respond to such a statement. His face was carefully blank, however. Bastard.
Vera cleared her throat, hands clenching and unclenching beneath her cloak. She'd only ever exchanged a few formal greetings with the king. "Ah yes… I suppose so, your majesty."
He nodded thoughtfully and shared a meaningful and utterly mysterious look with her father. The evening was starting to take on a strangely dream like quality and she resisted the urge to pinch herself. "Very well, I have an assignment for you," he said gravely. "If you are willing, of course."
Stunned, she snapped her mouth closed from where it had apparently fallen open. An assignment? What could he possibly want from a lowly naval cadet? "O-of course, your majesty, whatever I can, ah, do to help."
"Excellent," he said with a sudden smile, one that didn't quite meet his eyes. "My son will be traveling on a special diplomatic mission in short order and I require someone to train with him as well as see to his safety during the journey but, more importantly, to serve as his companion aboard the ship and ensure he is well guarded and has everything he might require to fulfill his mission."
Baffled by this utterly unforeseeable request, she blurted, "I'm sorry you want me to do what now?"
Her father made a low noise that sounded suspiciously like indigestion as he quickly steered her to one side. He gripped her tightly by the shoulders and looked her firmly, seriously, in the eyes. He was clearly in no mood for her bullshit. She wasn't trying to be difficult, for once -she was sincerely and deeply confused.
"Vera, the King is asking you to serve as a personal bodyguard to Prince Anduin."
That's what she was afraid he was asking, and she cannot fathom why he'd choose her of all people. Not to mention why this whole conversation needed to take place in the middle of Light-damned night. She had the sneaking suspicion that Prince Anduin was not aware of the King's little plan -his over protectiveness of his son was somewhat legendary- and thus she swiftly came to the conclusion that she was likely being dragged into complex father-son drama. Great.
She leaned closer to her father, voice pitched as low as she can manage "But… why me?"
He sighed, releasing her shoulders and straightening, smoothing out his mustache with his thumb and forefinger. "The King feels the Prince might be more… amenable to someone his own age, someone who might behave as more a… friend than a keeper."
"This seems like terrible idea," she told him bluntly. What in the world could she and Anduin Wyrnn possibly have in common? He was the Crown Prince of Stormwind, someday he'd be High King of the fucking Alliance. What, were they supposed to have tea and chat about the latest court gossip?
"Vera," her father hissed in warning, but too late.
"Its alright Taylor," the king said gruffly, leaning against the table with his arms crossed over his chest as he waited patiently for them to finish. Embarrassment for making the king of Stormwind wait for her to wrap her mind around his request rose like bile in her throat. Perhaps sensing her mortification, he gave her a small smile. "I appreciate those who feel comfortable voicing their concerns."
Vera flushed red hot, well aware that if -when- she was made Captain someday, she'd have to take a solemn oath to essentially throw herself into the Void if the King asked it of her so she should probably just give him a 'by your leave' and shut up. Shutting up has never been her strong suit, unfortunately.
She avoided her father's very pointed stare and stepped past him, bowing her head. In for a copper, in for a gold, I guess. "I just… forgive me your majesty, I'm just not quite sure I understand what it is you… expect of me, exactly."
"No need to grovel girl, I get enough of it from the courtiers," he said with a sharp bark that she prayed was just his way of speaking and not an indication of his rising irritation with her. She straightened uncertainly and tucked her hands behind her back like she would during dress.
The king paced around the table to stand just before her, towering above her like an ominous storm cloud that had just appeared on what had previously been a clear horizon. The moment took on a vaguely prophetic feeling, and she had the sinking sense that her life was about to change in some previously unforeseen way. "Miss Taylor, I am going to be very frank with you -my son is a gifted diplomat, he is well read and very serious about his responsibilities." His eyes narrowed at her, assessing once more, and she really really wished she'd had the foresight to remove her piercings. "He is also borderline obsessive, has a hard time relating to people his own age, dislikes engaging in his sword training and generally has no sense of how to enjoy himself or have… fun."
Vera opened her mouth then snapped it closed immediately before trying again. "You want me to have… fun with the Crown Prince?"
The king smirked, suddenly amused, and it made him look almost charming. Boyish. She was starting to feel dizzy under the pressure and uncertainty. Were members of royalty simply mercurial by nature or was it a product of the position, she wondered absently. "Something like that. I also want you to sword train with him, that's very important, and serve as his personal bodyguard. I might add that guarding the Prince will look spectacular on your application for Captainhood."
Shit, he had a point there. Vera sucked in a deep breath and pulled her head out of her own ass, bowing low with her clutched fist pressed over her heart. "Forgive my hesitance, your majesty, I just wanted to be sure I understood the responsibilities of the assignment. Of course I will do as you ask, it would be my honor." She mentally patted herself on the back for such a speech, drawing on long since abandoned lessons of etiquette her father had once tried to force on her after her mother died.
"Excellent," the king said with a broad but weary smile. This time, it actually reached his eyes. "You two should get some rest, you ship out in two days."
Vera managed to hold herself together until she and her father wearily hauled themselves into their carriage.
"Is this some kind of punishment for the tattoo because this is exceptionally cruel."
Her father gave her a sharp look, tugging at the collar of his dress uniform. He looked tired, dark circles casting long shadows beneath his eyes. "Being asked to accompany and protect the Crown Prince is an incredible honor, Vera, please tell me you understand that. Besides you two were such friends when you were younger."
Vera suppressed a groan, melting into the carriage cushions as they bobbed through nearly empty streets. She felt uneasy. It was an honor -so why in the hell was it being offered to her? She knew with deep, unquestionable certainty that there were far more qualified people that would literally jump at the opportunity. There was absolutely no reason she should be chosen. The fact that she was the Prince's age and they has been close-ish as children did not seem like nearly a good enough reason. Something else was going on, she just couldn't put her finger on what.
"We've barely interacted at all since before we were eight dad, we've hardly exchanged more than a handful of words since then." He'd sent her a very personal letter after her mother had died in the attack on Stormwind two years ago, which she had never responded to. But she shoved that old guilt back down into the recesses of her still aching heart. She'd never told her father or another soul about the letter but sometimes she'd pull it out, read over the kind, empathetic words there, and wonder about the person Anduin Wrynn had become. She'd overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that they existed in two very different worlds. She liked her world. It was full of bawdy sea ballads, copious amounts of drinking, foul language and the open sea. His world was full of stuffy nobles, cold castles, and unfathomably difficult decisions that affected countless lives. It wasn't the sort of thing that a childhood friendship could compensate for.
"Well," her father said, "you'll have plenty to catch up on then, won't you?" Vera pursed her lips but said nothing as he continued. "I'm hoping he'll rub off on you a bit as well. Teach you the value of using your brain before running headlong into a problem. Maybe convince you to crack open a book or two. "
"Ha ha," she muttered, rolling her eyes and catching her chin in her hand as she balanced her elbow precariously on the carriage window ledge.
"Besides, I wasn't lying to the King when I told him you're an exceptional swords-woman. Anduin could learn much from you and you're more than capable of serving as a guard." His smile told her he was clearly enjoying her discomfort. "Oh, and don't worry, I am sure you'll still have plenty of time for your latrine duties."
She shot him an outraged look, but it was utterly wasted as he settled back into his seat and closed his eyes. She turned instead to pout out the window, her true insecurities bubbling up beneath her childish petulance.
Normally such praise would have had her flying, but it was tempered by her own uncertainty. Her own sense of ineptitude. She was good with a sword, always had been -had out grown her own trainer over a year ago. But still, what was that really worth, in the grand scheme of things? The Alliance was full of able swordsmen and women, many of them far better than she. Besides all that, what she wanted, more than anything, was her own ship and the vast oceans of Azeroth open to her. Not to guard some stuffy Prince with perfect golden hair and eyes the color of a cloudless summer sky who had always been nothing but nice to her despite having no reason to be so.
"Shit," she muttered as her father's light snores filled the carriage. "Shit."