At least I had a few moments of relaxation, Ald thought as he dreamed of sinking back into the perfumed waters of his bath at the Gilded Rose. Cald was right as usual. The Humpday Heroes didn’t get a lot of downtime.
High Exarch Turalyon led Aldineri, Caldmaster, and a small group of Stormwind guards to the scene of the crime. After a very brief discussion back at Stormwind Keep, Turalyon had decided it best if the two speak with Genn Greymane, King of Gilneas. The worgen was the last to see Anduin and supposedly witnessed the kidnapping.
Though a king in his own right, Greymane had sworn allegiance to the Alliance and its leader Anduin Wrynn. He served as King Anduin’s advisor, and according to Turalyon, the two had been having one of their private chats when Anduin was taken. How exactly the kidnappers had entered Stormwind, which had been heavily guarded since the vanishing of Sylvanas Darkrunner, was the question Aldineri had on the top of his mind. Well, besides the question of how they were going to rescue the King, of course.
The group entered the Lion’s Rest, the tomb and monument to former King Varian Wrynn, father to Anduin. Lion’s Rest had been built where the Stormwind Park once stood before being destroyed by Deathwing during the events of the cataclysm. Surrounded by fountains and waterways, a large casket featuring a stone likeness of Varian stood as its centerpiece. Three large monuments formed a half-circle around the head of the casket and honored those who fell on the Broken Shore during the last Legion invasion. The center monument reflected the light in just a way to highlight the casket as a holy shrine.
The area was one of peace and reflection. A peace that was shattered just a few hours before.
Genn Greymane, in full wolf form, was kneeling by the casket. Ald had long suspected that Genn’s transformations were involuntary for the most part. His current form was proof that the worgen king was brimming with anger and fear.
“That was quick, Aldineri,” Genn said, his head still bowed and his eyes closed. Ald noticed the worgen’s nostrils flare. “I only sent word about an hour ago.”
“Your courier likely didn’t think we were already in the city,” Ald replied. He slowly approached the kneeling worgen and placed a single paw on his shoulder. Genn turned his face away from the group for a moment and wiped around his eyes with one paw before standing tall and shaking Ald’s paw reverently. Cald approached, and Genn met him with a handshake as well. As Turalyon and the guards retreated a bit, Genn’s fur started to disappear. His snout shrunk back into a human face, and his claws retreated into normal human fingernails. It took only a few seconds, and the human form of Genn Greymane stood with the adventurers.
“What was your business in Stormwind then?”
“You first, Genn. What happened here?” Greymane raised one eyebrow but related the events of the past few hours to Aldineri and Caldmaster. He and Anduin had been visiting this monument as Anduin had done so many times before. The serenity helped him think, and he asked his father many unanswered questions about leadership and strategy. It was then that dark storm clouds swept over the entire city. Within moments, they came for him.
“Dark angels?” Cald repeated at Genn’s words.
“Yes. Well, sort of. They have a technical name. Vry’kul? No, Val’kyr? Something like that. It is becoming much more difficult to remember these things as the years go on. It was one of those things Tyrande defeated at Darkshore during the war.”
Cald’s right hand rummaged in his bag and pulled out a small book. He quickly flipped through the pages.
“Are you sure that’s what they were, Genn?” Ald asked. “Can you describe them?”
“Dark winged monsters wearing some sort of skull mask over their faces. They wrapped Anduin in chains and took off again as quickly as they arrived. I caught a whiff of one of them. He smelled of death and decay.” Greymane shook his head as if to get the scent out of his nostrils.
“But that doesn’t make sense, Genn,” Cald added. “The Val’kyr are all female. And they are more blue in appearance.” He showed Genn one of the pages in his book, a sketch of a flying female warrior. There was no skull mask. Rather, a blindfold covered the figure’s eyes. Above the picture was the word “Val’kyr” in fancy script. “Is this what you saw?”
Genn squinted both eyes as he studied the picture. “I’m not sure,” he said after a few moments. “But I know in my heart that it was her. Sylvanas did this. She has thrown the world into chaos with her actions, and now she has taken our king.”
Ald watched as Genn hung his head.
“I know he is his own man,” Genn said. “I tried my best to advise him on kingly matters. But I always had one goal. To keep my word to his father.” He placed one hand on the stone casket of Varian. “To protect his son.”
Neither Aldineri nor Caldmaster had anything to say to this. Nothing they could say would help. Only action. The King needed rescue. But from who? And where?
The sound of a ghastly neigh made all three spin and crouch ready for battle. Ald glanced up at the cloudy sky, waiting for the fallen creatures to return and grab another leader of the Alliance. Instead, the form of a flying black horse was headed towards the trio, leaving green streaks in the air as it flew. Even from this distance, Ald could see the wolfish features of Kebechet astride the horse. She was not smiling.
Ald felt the others relax behind him as they too spied the incoming visitor. She landed the mount heavily on the stone of Lion’s Rest. Behind her and still in the air, three more mounts flew in. Fuzzy, Anth, and Kobaiyashi dropped in behind Keb. All four approached the casket.
“We received the message meant for Aldineri, King Greymane,” she said, holding out the scroll to Ald. It was already unsealed.
“Did a bit of light reading, I see,” Ald said in a whisper to her as she got into earshot.
“It could have been important. And I see it was.” She approached Greymane, and she bowed deeply to him. After all, he was the King of Gilneas, her home. While Greymane again recounted the events of that morning to the newcomers, Ald read over the message. He had an uneasy feeling of déjà vu as he read the note. It was exactly like so many other pleas for help over the years.
“Genn believes them to be the Val’kyr that serve Sylvanas,” Cald said to Keb. Greymane must have finished his story. “But I’m not so sure. No offense, Genn, but these sound like something else. Something different.”
Genn let a loud snort escape his nose, and his eyes temporarily ringed with gold instead of their typical blue. “Caldmaster, I honestly don’t care what they were. I just want my King found. And I want Sylvanas to face justice.”
“It will be done, sire,” Kebechet said. Ald always found it a bit disconcerting to hear her act so respectful to leadership. He had been the leader of the Humpday Heroes for years, and she told him where to shove it on a regular basis.
Ald turned to see Anth showing the same form of respect to Turalyon. As a pair of paladins, they served the same light. Kobaiyashi stood alone, his features impassive. He seemed tuned into the air surrounding Lion’s Rest. Meditation was the monk’s specialty.
“What’s the plan then, Ald?” Cald asked.
Aldineri furrowed his brow as he thought through the mystery. Angelic dark creatures had snatched King Anduin and taken him away in chains. Sylvanas hadn’t shown up herself, but it was likely she would send others to do her dirty work. If this truly was the work of Sylvanas, there were two people who might be able to shed light on her activities. And it was unlikely that one of them, her Horde champion and student Nathanos Blightcaller, would help the Alliance in any way.
“We need an audience with a different king then,” Ald finally answered. “The Lich King, that is. He might be able to help us understand what her plan is and where she might be now.”
“The former Lich King, Aldineri,” corrected Greymane. “That is a solid plan, though. I can have the mages here in Stormwind arrange transport when you and your party are ready.”
At that moment, an unexpected voice chimed in. “We are ready now, Genn Greymane, King of Gilneas.” Kobaiyashi straightened from his meditative stance and focused on the gathering of people before him. “We must move now. The air has stirred. They are here.”
Almost as soon as the words hit his ears, Ald felt the temperature around him drop. His stomach fell away as flashes of Giles’s eyes formed in his memory. “The Scourge. The zombies are here in Stormwind.”
Kobaiyashi nodded and remounted. The others looked at one another for a brief moment.
“We must fight,” Anth said. “It is our duty.”
“No!” Greymane shouted. “We’ll hold them off. You six need to go now! Find my king!” At the last words, Genn’s hair sprouted and spread over his body. His mouth elongated into the snout of a wolf, and claws formed from his human hands. He let out a painful scream as he fully transformed back into his wolf form. “Go!” he shouted.
Everyone mounted up. Ald hopped on Keb’s horse, and Cald grabbed space on Anth’s. The six adventurers flew off towards the mage tower where a portal to Icecrown Citadel and the Lich King awaited.
Even though heights were not his thing, Ald took a chance to peer over the side of the horse. From up in the air, he could see them. The glowing blue eyes. Zombies like the ones who had wrecked his garrison. They were causing havoc already. Screams of Stormwind residents carried through the wind up to the adventurers. Anth was right that they should stay and help, but stopping this single invasion wouldn’t stop them all. The undead were free from the shackles of the Lich King, and only Bolvar Fordragon would be able to help. So, their mission with him was twofold.
They landed at the door leading up to the mage tower. The fight had already found its way here. About ten zombies were racing up the spiral ramp to their position. Keb was barely off her horse before she fired off two arrows. Each one found its target, and the velocity from their flight knocked the zombie carcasses off the ramp to the grass below the tower.
Ald quickly scanned the area and noticed that Anth’s horse was missing. “Where’s Anth and Cald?” he yelled over groans of zombies and screams of citizens.
“I don’t know, but you have to go!” Keb screamed as she fired two more arrows at approaching zombies. But they kept coming, groaning and reaching with dead arms and mangled teeth. “Go, I said. I’ll hold them off so you can get out. Go to the Lich King. Do as Greymane said!”
Ald shook his head. “If you’re fighting, I’m fighting.” Ald reached for his daggers.
“Now, Fuzzy!” Keb yelled.
Ald felt a blunt pain behind his head, and his vision went black. The last thing he saw before dropping out of consciousness was Giles’s face. His dead eyes staring into Aldineri’s.