Chapter Twenty-Three: Arrival

“Could I interest you in more tea, Maw Walker? Your cup appears empty.” Theotar smiled widely, showing his fangs.

A chill still ran up Aldineri’s whenever one of the Venthyr showed their teeth. While he’d technically never seen them bite anyone, the sharpened fangs reminded him of the fierce orc warriors he had once fought in Orgrimmar during Garrosh Hellscream’s reign.

Of course, Theotar was wholly unlike those orcs. The “Mad Duke” had become one of Ald’s only friends these past few months. While the rest of his guildmates were back in Azeroth tending to their families and the non-adventuring parts of their lives, Ald was stuck in Revendreth, tending to the broken Venthyr covenant, which had a new leader after centuries of maniacal rule by Denathrius.

Since his guildmates had left, Ald had tried to use the portal in Oribos twice. He desperately wanted to see Keb’s new baby boy, but the portal back to Azeroth rejected him. He walked through it as if it were an illusion. As if it were not there. Or rather, as if Ald was not there. Apparently, he had not been made completely whole again after his death and supposed resurrection. No one truly understood what happened that day in Castle Nathria, but the event hadn’t fully brought him back to life.

Theotar fan art by Jessica Aumaitre
Theotar fan art by Jessica Aumaitre |

Cut off from his guild, Ald had spent the last few months helping Prince Renathal rebuild the Venthyr. However, he merely served as an advisor. As much as he tried, the Venthyr hadn’t really accepted him as one of their own. So, he spent much of his time in Dawnkeep alone, listening to the screams and insults of Denathrius who was still trapped within his own sentient sword.

The only visitor he ever received was Theotar who would host elaborate tea parties set for the two of them.

“I think I will have a second cup,” Ald said in response to Theotar’s question. He extended his cup to the Duke who clapped his long-fingered hands together, let out a delighted giggle, lifted the silver teapot from the round table, and poured the steaming liquid into Ald’s cup. The Pandaren waved off the sugar and cream and drank the bitter liquid in two gulps.

“How delightful,” the Mad Duke proclaimed. “I will truly miss these moments after I give you the important news. Anyhow, as I was saying before…then the Countess realized her goblet had vanished, and she called over the steward to ask who had touched it. And he responded that he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but Prince Renathal had-”

“Erm, hold up a moment there, Theotar,” Ald interrupted. “Could you go back a bit there? Important news?”

The Venthyr gave a melodramatic frown. “Ah, the fun is over before it starts, Maw Walker. It is always business with you, isn’t it? More tea?”

“No, thank you,” said as Ald as he tried to stifle any of the impatience he felt inside. “I don’t mean to be rude, Theotar. You know how I enjoy your visits. But is there something you needed to tell me?”

The Mad Duke stretched the time out even further by taking a luxurious sip of the tea within his own cup, his gnarled pinky thrust at an odd angle from where he was holding the vessel. Once he had finished, he carefully (and rather slowly) repositioned the base of his cup on top of the saucer, making sure that it was even on all of its circular sides.

Ald waited as patiently as he could. He knew that forcing the subject would only anger Theotar, and the Pandaren wasn’t sure he wanted to test how angry the Mad Duke could become. Pointy fangs and all that.

“Well, the Prince has informed me that your guildmates have started their return.” Ald felt a lightness form deep within his own chest. “According to the Stone Legion spies, they are checking in on their own covenants before returning here to Dawnkeep. It seems I will need to find a new tea party compatriot.”

Ald stood up from the table and punched the air in glee. Theotar took this moment to refill Ald’s teacup. “This is great, Theotar! How did they know to return? I haven’t been able to send them any messages recently.”

To this, Theotar gave a casual shrug. “I can only report what I was told, of course. They will arrive in an hour’s time.” Theotar looked thoughtful. “Or was it half an hour?”

A voice came from the door. “If your spies were truly on top of the situation, Theotar, I’m sure they told you we would arrive in half an hour…about half an hour ago.”

Two bodies stood silhouetted in the doorway. Ald hadn’t realized how dark it was in the room until he tried to see their faces. The two stepped forward, and Cald and Anth became immediately recognizable.

Ald jumped from his seat, ran over, and gave Cald a big hug. He then turned and gave the same to Anth. The two of them seemed mildly surprised, but they returned the hugs as best they could given they were dressed in full armor, weapons by their sides.

“Why are you here? What’s brought you back?” Ald asked, eyeing the armor and weapons.

Anth gave Cald a significant look before speaking. “Well, honestly I came to check on you since we’d heard nothing from you in  a few months. I thought we’d get a report or two about the Shadowlands while we were away, but you’d gone completely radio silent. I’m glad we came back when we did, though.”

“Why do you say that? Has something happened?” Ald asked, happy to avoid telling them the reason for his lack of contact. No need to worry them about his own personal problems at the moment.

“Yes, something has happened,” Cald replied. “It’s Anduin.”

The lightness that Ald had felt in his chest hardened and became a solid lump that fell to the bottom of his stomach. “Is he…is our King…?” He let the question hang, unable to say the word that sprang to his mind and caused the lump in his stomach to grow cold.

Theotar gave a mad chuckle from the table behind him. “He is alive and well, Maw Walker. Well in form, I should say. Perhaps not in mind.”

Ald ignored the Venthyr and focused only on his guildmates in front of him. Obviously, Theotar knew something else but had withheld it. And if Theotar knew, the other Venthyr knew as well. Yet more proof they didn’t consider him one of their own.

“He’s been shackled by the Jailer,” Anth said. “As Theotar hinted, not his physical body but rather his mind. Some form of mind control. The Jailer used Anduin as a puppet to attack the Archon.”

Bastion was ruled by the Archon, leader of the Kyrian, the covenant to which Anth had pledged himself. He must have heard about this event while checking up on the Kyrian before heading here to Dawnkeep.

The news wore heavily on Ald. He had come here with one mission: to protect and rescue Anduin, King of Stormwind. While he had been distracted by Denathrius, Castle Nathria, and the covenants, Genn Greymane had set him just the one mission. A mission that was difficult from the start and now appeared to be a failed one.

Even if Anduin’s mind could be freed from the Jailer’s control (which would be no small task as it may require the defeat of a seemingly omnipotent Jailer), he may still be held accountable by the covenants of the Shadowlands for his actions while under the Jailer’s spell. This might be another reason why the Venthyr hadn’t told Ald of the event. They knew they might lose him as an ally if they felt the need to put Anduin on trial for the death of the Archon.

“She lives, Ald,” Anth said as if reading the Pandaren’s mind. “She will need time to recover, but she lives. The Kyrians, on the other hand, are calling for the Jailer’s head. They are ready to take the fight to his Sanctum.”

Ald looked over at his gear, which hung from the wall on a makeshift weapon rack. “I’m a bit out of practice,” he said lamely. “I’ll get suited up and refitted if necessary. We need to call the others back if we are to join the fight. It may be the only way to free Anduin from the Jailer’s control.”

“I thought you might say that,” Anth replied with a grin. “I’ve already sent word to Opie back in Azeroth. She’ll gather a few of our guild before joining us here. If you want, I can send messages to others to join our cause.”

Ald was about to reply in the affirmative when Cald interrupted.

“Actually, Ald, I think I should be the one to call them back. I’ll need to not only inform them of our current situation but also to strategize with them regarding our attack on the Jailer’s sanctum. Besides, you’ll need Anth to coordinate with the Kyrian as they are his chosen covenant.”

Ald agreed. Cald was part of the Undying Army in Maldraxxus. Anth was the only one of the three who could persuade the Kyrians to accept the help of the Humpday Heroes.

“Make it so,” Ald said. “In the meantime, I need to set up preparations here.” He glanced over his shoulder at Theotar who was taking a small sip of tea. The Venthyr was either pretending not to pay attention or truly ignoring the three of them since they were not joining in on his personal tea party. “Theotar, the Mad Duke,” Ald said imperiously. “I ask that you gather a Venthyr force to guard Dawnkeep in my absence.”

Theotar threw his teacup behind him, clapped his hands together, and squealed in pure delight. “I thought you would never ask, Maw Walker. I get to be part of your army. How exciting!”

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