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The Night Ran Scarlet

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Mathias Shaw, Spymaster of the Alliance, walked purposefully down the stone corridor leading to King Anduin Wrynn’s private quarters. He’d meant to come by two hours before, but he’d been held up at the SI:7 headquarters by multiple tasks. He suppressed a sigh as he drew closer to what he was looking forward to: a night with his young lover. Even if they only passed it cuddling, it was infinitely better than being alone.

He stopped at Anduin’s door, noticing a faint purple glow around the edges, recognizing it immediately as the magical form of a “Do Not Disturb” spell. Anduin used it frequently when he and Flynn were staying over. It muted any sound that could escape, as well as locking the door. Even Mathias’s skills with lockpicks wouldn’t get him through; it would take the counterspell.

He considered using it, but discarded the idea. If Anduin wasn’t in the mood for company, Mathias would let him be. He had finally accepted that Mathias and Flynn weren’t going to tire of him, and had relaxed considerably since Winter’s Veil. Mathias still spent the bulk of his nights with the lad, but sometimes Anduin would take a night for himself.

With a small smile, he turned and walked back down the hallway, nodding at the guards as he passed. The walk to his flat was uneventful, and he was soon curled up on the sofa, his copy of Birds of the Eastern Kingdoms open on his lap. He leafed through the book, contemplating the images, trying to pick one for his next whittling project until his eyes burned and he decided to retire for the night.

Sleep was slow to come, alone in the large bed. Mathias hated to admit it, but he’d gotten used to sleeping with at least one person. Flynn should be making port in Boralus in the next day or two, and that meant about a week before he’d return. Mathias hoped Anduin would have time for him soon, so he wouldn’t have to toss and turn. Closing his eyes, he willed himself to sleep.

He woke alone, missing his lovers. He busied himself in the small flat he called home, making coffee and going over a few reports so he’d be prepared when he went into SI:7 headquarters. Since the armistice, things had been quiet, but the routine helped settle his mind. He could bide his time until the council meeting, when he’d see Anduin.

But, when he stepped into the council chamber, both Anduin and King Genn Greymane of Gilneas were missing. He took his customary place at the table, surreptitiously watching the door. Neither king arrived before the meeting was to start, and Anduin’s secretary, Peter, looked worried. He moved over to the short man, and gestured towards the hall. They stepped into it.

“Peter, have you seen King Wrynn, or King Greymane today?”

“King Greymane came to see me not long ago, he wanted to meet with his majesty. I had to tell him,” Peter broke off, looking around nervously.

“What’s going on? I may not be Lion’s Guard, but SI:7 works with them to ensure King Wrynn is safe at all times.”

The man in front of him slumped. “I haven’t seen him, sir. He never showed for his morning briefing. His door is set with a spell. I assumed perhaps he was taking a late morning. He does that sometimes. He’s, um,” he faltered again, blushing.

“King Wrynn’s safety is the priority here. I need to know what you know,” Mathias said, making his voice gentle, but firm. He pushed the knot of worry forming in his stomach aside for the moment.

“Rumors about the castle mention he’s taken a lover. No one’s seen them, but he often uses a spell on the door to remain undisturbed. I know you see him in the evenings, and I’m a little surprised you haven’t crossed paths with whoever he’s seeing.”

“I hold the king’s personal life in the highest confidence,” he said neutrally. “But this tells me nothing about King Greymane.”

“My apologies, Master Shaw. I haven’t seen him since he stormed out of my office, presumably to find His Majesty.”

“Thank you, Peter. Make an excuse for King Wrynn. I’ll get King Greymane to the meeting as soon as I can.”

At the man’s nod, Mathias turned and strode down the hall. He moved as quickly as he could without attracting suspicion. Heart hammering, he hoped it was simply a case of Anduin oversleeping, but his gut rejected the idea.

He rounded the corner, noticing only one guard at his post at the wing’s entrance. He nodded at the man, and was surprised when instead of a nod, the guard sidestepped to block the hallway.

“Apologies, Master Shaw, but we have a situation, and my orders are to not allow anyone into the Royal Wing.”

“I’m here to locate King Greymane, can you tell me if he’s with King Wrynn?”

The guard’s face was impassive, but he nodded. “King Greymane is here, sir. He’s occupied.”

Taking a deep breath, Mathias leaned to one side and hollered down the corridor, “Genn! I need to speak with you!”

“Sir! This is most inappropriate,” the guard scolded.

“Shaw? Get your ass down here.” Greymane’s bellow back was unmistakable.

Mathias locked eyes with the guard. A moment passed before he stepped aside. “Very well, sir.”

“Thank you,” he said mildly, walking past. He strode quickly to Anduin’s suite, where the worgen king was standing with a guard and a gnomish woman, dressed in ornate robes. They were studying the door.

“Your Majesty, I take it King Wrynn isn’t with you,” Mathias said, also turning towards the door. The purple shimmer was still in effect, limning the edges of the door.

“No Shaw, he’s not. No one’s seen him since dinner last night. I thought he might be occupied,” Genn leaned heavily on occupied, and Mathias knew with you was implied in that sentence. He was relieved the other man hadn’t slipped up in front of the others.

“When I came by last night for a briefing, the door was set like this.”

“It seems to be a sound-proofing spell to keep the occupant from being disturbed,” the woman said. “You can tell by the runic pattern weaving about the door.”

Mathias blinked and examined the door again. All he saw was purple. “If you say so, I see no patterns.”

“Have to be a mage to see them,” she said. She offered a hand. “Archmage Whizsprocket. King Greymane brought me in to remove the spell. I’ll have to try several counters, but I’m confident I can get it.”

“Don’t bother,” Mathias said, stepping up to the door. He lifted his hands and carefully traced the counterspell. The shimmer vanished. He heard a grunt from behind him, but he ignored it. Trying the handle, he found it locked. He knocked, loudly. No answer.

“Pick the lock, Shaw, I can smell something’s wrong. Guardsman, I need you to go get the Captain of the Guard, now.”

Mathias did so, then threw open the door. Anduin’s private sitting room was a mess; the sofa toppled over backward and a decanter of wine shattered on the floor, contents mostly dried. “Dammit,” he muttered, stepping into the room, Genn and the mage on his heels. “Don’t touch anything, either of you.”

Genn sniffed, turning his head. “There were multiple people in here with him. No one I’m familiar with.”

Mathias stepped around the sofa, crossing the room silently, and made for the bedroom. He knew what he’d find before he opened the door, but had to check. It was undisturbed, the bed neatly made and nothing out of place. He noted the wardrobe he and Flynn shared was closed and locked.

Stepping back into the sitting room, he found Genn crouched at one end, looking at a boot print in the spilled wine. “Soft sole, perhaps a rogue.”

Mathias narrowed his eyes. “I don’t like the looks of this. We need more than the Captain of the Guard. I need my people. They’ll be able to tell us more. Whizsprocket, I need you to look around, tell me if there’s anything magical you can find.”

He stepped out of the room, moving swiftly down the hall to the lone guard. “I need Renzik of SI:7 and an incident team, and I need them here in minutes, not when it pleases everyone.”

The guard opened his mouth, no doubt to protest about being the only one on duty.

Genn appeared in Anduin’s doorway and shouted towards them, “Go, I’ll handle security. Pass the order along to a page and be back in ten minutes. If no one’s here in twenty, I will have you fired myself.”

The man turned and took off running.

Mathias jogged back to the empty room. “What can you tell me?”

Whizsprocket spoke up.“There’s a lot of magic in the room. It’ll take me a bit, but I can sort it out.” She held up a hand to them. “I’m already on it, don’t rush me.”

Mathias turned to Genn.

“Anduin was scared. Whoever was in here, and I’m betting it was an organized team, was only nervous,” Genn said, standing.

Mathias nodded. “That’s more than I can tell. I came by about ten last night, and the spell was up on the door. The guards were at their posts, so I assumed nothing was amiss.”

“So we’re looking at him being gone, what? More than twelve hours?”

Mathias’s shoulders slumped. “I’m afraid so. And with the magic Whizsprocket sensed, they could be anywhere by now.”

***********************************************************************************

 

“Boss, I got the preliminary report, and you’re going to hate it. From what we can see, King Wrynn opened the door for his attackers. Either the guards were involved, or someone was able to impersonate them. Scuff marks on the door indicate he tried to shut it, but was overpowered. Indications are a group, but we don’t know the makeup of it yet.
At least one rogue for concealment. Would also explain that boot print in the wine,” Renzik said, coming out of the room. “Maybe that mage will have something for you.”

“I hope so, otherwise we’re at a dead end,” Mathias said, looking through the open door. He could see Whizsprocket working a spell near Anduin’s desk.

Captain Cain, head of the Stormwind Royal Guard approached, and said “Master Shaw, I have the information you wanted on the guards.” A trim man about Mathias’s age, he wore his suit of plate like it was nothing, despite having been running all over the keep.

“Go ahead, Captain,” Mathias said, face bland.

“Guards Ellis and Imran were on duty in this wing last night.”

“Anything unusual reported by them?”

“Nothing that the duty-master noted down, sir.”

“Recall them. They’ll need to be examined by a mage.”

“Already issued the order. They should be on their way here now.” A hint of pride showed on Cain’s face.

“Good. Did anyone report anything odd?”

The Captain shook his head, then stopped. “Now that you mention it. A couple guards reported small disturbances, a few strange noises, one commented about a shelf of books falling in one of the rooms off the main entrance. He grumbled about setting it to rights.”

Mathias kept his expression neutral. “I see. Can you get me a map of them?”

“Of course sir. Do you want Ellis and Imran sent here once they arrive?”

“Please. Tell them not to speak with anyone, unless they need to clarify orders, and to come straight here and wait by the doorway.”

Captain Cain saluted and left. Mathias turned and slipped back into the room. He found Genn leaning against the cold fireplace, and his incident team setting the room to rights. “Cain’s men reported nothing. They’re on their way back, I want Whizsprocket to examine them. There were a series of disturbances throughout the Keep last night.”

“You suspect distractions to get an infiltration team in?”

“It’s the most likely scenario. A couple of rogues and maybe one or two more. We’ll know more once she’s done.”

“They used an arcane spell in here - a portal,” she said from across the room, turning to face them.

“Can you tell us where they went?” Mathias asked.

“A portal spell is a portal spell; they all leave the same residue. It’s been over twelve hours since it was cast.”

Mathias saw Genn slump, and asked, “So there’s nothing you can do?”

“I didn’t say that. There’s enough residue I might be able to call up an echo of it. All you’d get is a view of the destination. It’s not much, but it’s more than you have right now.”

“Do it,” Mathias and Genn said in unison.

Whizsprocket nodded, and made a series of gestures, her hands glowing with bluish-white light. Runes appeared, flared, and vanished, and after a moment, a shimmering portal materialized. Unlike the portals he’d seen conjured in the past, this one seemed washed out, a faded memory of itself. He crossed the room without pause, getting close and peering into it.

The destination was dimly lit, and seemed to open directly into a grey stone room. One old bookcase with a collapsed shelf and an old chair were all he could see. He squinted, trying to place it, but the scene could have been anywhere, including the basement of Stormwind Keep itself.

“That doesn’t give us much to go on,” Genn grumbled beside him.

“No, it doesn’t. But it is human architecture, which narrows it down considerably,” Mathias said.

Whizsprocket broke the spell, the portal shimmering into nothing. “I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. Without knowing where they went, I can’t send you after them. Portal spells to a location other than a major city are rare and a closely guarded secret. Whoever cast this one is probably one of only a few who know it.”

“Which means it could be any splinter group of any disgruntled faction,” Genn said.

Footsteps sounded outside the door, stopping any further conversation. Mathias stepped out, finding two guards standing there, looking puzzled.

“Guards Ellis and Imran?” he asked, getting nods in return. “I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Of course, Master Shaw,” the first one said.

“Ellis first. Imran, you wait outside,” he said, realizing he had no idea who was who. The slightly shorter of the two, a dark skinned man with a neatly trimmed black goatee, stepped forward and followed Mathias into the room. Mathias gestured at an overstuffed chair. “Have a seat.”

He went to Whizsprocket. “Can you determine if a spell’s been cast on him?”

“Depends on how specific you need me to be. I can tell if he’s been affected by magic in the last day or so, and what type, arcane, holy, etc, but I can’t tell you exactly which spell. Spells cast on people display differently than, say, a portal spell.”

Mathias nodded. “Do the best you can. I’ll be questioning him while you work.” Whizsprocket stepped behind the chair, only the very top of her bun showing above it.

He moved back to the man. “Guard Ellis. You were on duty last night?”

“Yes, Master Shaw.”

“You were at your post all night?”

“Except for the disturbance.” The guard’s face look tired, but composed.

Whizsprocket’s bun bobbed and an arcane glow came from behind the chair. “The disturbance?”

“There was a noise down the hall, past His Majesty’s rooms. Sounded like a broken glass. I knew it couldn’t have come from King Wrynn’s suite, it was too clear. So I checked with Imran, and went to investigate.”

Interesting. “What did you find?”

“A broken vase of flowers in an alcove. I looked around, no open window to bring a gust of wind in, so it must have just been set too close to the edge of the pedestal it was on, and toppled.” Ellis shrugged. “I went back to my post, told Imran what I found, and told a servant when we were headed back to the duty-master this morning.”

Whizsprocket popped around the chair and shook her head. “I see. Thank you for your willingness to answer my questions, Guard Ellis. Please wait in the hall, and send in Guard Imran.”

The man stood and bowed to Genn, then left. Moments later, a young blond man with a friendly expression came in. “You asked for me, Master Shaw?”

“I did. Please sit.”

Guard Imran did. He stared at Mathias curiously.

“You were on duty last night?”

“Of course. I stand watch with Ellis.”

“And you were at your post all night?”

“I was.”

Whizsprocket disappeared behind the chair, and the arcane glow began again.

“And Guard Ellis was at his post all night?”

“He was. Claims he was investigating some noise, but I don’t remember him leaving.”

Curious. “What do you mean by that?”

Imran shrugged. “Ellis said he heard a noise, like a broken something, and he went to investigate. I don’t remember anything like that, just him coming back, telling me some vase broke.”

Whizsprocket stuck her head around the edge of the chair and nodded. Mathias knew he was frowning.

“You don’t remember a noise, nor him leaving?”

“No sir.” The man’s pleasant expression was beginning to fade. “Should I?”

“Do you consider that strange?”

Imran looked thoughtful. Mathias waited him out.

“Well, now that you mentioned it, Master Shaw, it does seem odd. It didn’t at the time. Felt like it made sense, somehow, when Ellis just came back. I didn’t even think to report it to the duty-master.”

“But now, it seems off?”

“Well, yes. Although part of me keeps saying I shouldn’t find it strange at all.” He looked puzzled.

“It’s fine,” Mathias reassured Imran. “Sometimes we all get confused. Don’t worry about it. At this point, you’re tired after a long shift. I have all I need at this time. You’re dismissed. Please tell Guard Ellis he’s also dismissed, and thank you both for your cooperation.”

“Of course, Master Shaw.” Like Ellis, Imran bowed to King Greymane before leaving.

Once he was gone, Mathias shut the door. “What do you know, Archmage?”

“Shadow spell. I’d bet my rank someone mind controlled him. It would explain the suggestion at the end that he not find it strange when Ellis was away from his post.”

Mathias nodded, crossing his arms.

“Thank you for your help, Archmage. We know we can count on your silence in this matter,” Genn said, offering a hand.

“Of course, the Alliance can’t risk more turmoil. I wouldn’t dream of upsetting anything,” Whizsprocket said, shaking both men’s hands. She bowed to Genn and left.

Mathias made a note to have Genn keep everyone out of the King’s chamber. They could claim Anduin was busy on some serious project, and Genn was the only one who was coming to see him. The other king could keep up the ruse by bringing meals in and out, and that would keep servants away.

He saw his incident team was all but done cleaning up. A nervous looking worgen agent was shuffling through some paperwork on Anduin’s desk, shooting Mathias the occasional glance. He resisted the urge to sigh. Of course Renzik would bring a worgen; their noses were excellent, and his second wouldn’t have assumed Genn would be lending a hand. Or snout.

“Mirabelle, with me,” he said, opening Anduin’s bedroom door and stepping inside. She followed him, hands clasped behind her back as she entered. He shut the door behind them, leaning casually against the locked wardrobe.

“Do you have something you need to say, Agent?”

She seemed even more nervous, and with a visible swallow, spoke. “No, sir. Nothing.”

“I see. I am aware that as a worgen, you have a very keen sense of smell. There are probably a number of scents in this suite that have you wondering what might be going on. Ordinarily I would not discuss my personal life, but this situation does put me in an uncomfortable spot.”

Mirabelle stood a little straighter. “I would never question what you choose to do on your own time, sir. You’re an excellent leader, and you’ve proven your value more than any of us. I would be a fool to think you’re anything but qualified for your position.”

Mathias nodded. “Thank you. Then I must ask for your discretion in this case. You are the only agent aware of what goes on in this chamber… after hours. And I would ask that you keep it that way. As you can guess, the situation is a delicate one, especially with the High King missing.”

She nodded, face resolute. “Of course, sir. You can count on me.”

“Thank you.” He opened the door, and they left the room. He gestured to Renzik and Genn. “I need to speak with you two alone. Everyone else, head back to SI:7. I want an official report by the time I’m back.”

Once the incident team had left, Mathias sat down on the sofa in his customary place with a sigh. “This is the safest place to discuss what we know, and what’s happening next,” Mathias offered by way of explanation when neither man took a seat. After a moment, Genn took the armchair, and Renzik perched on the far end of the sofa.

“It seems pretty clear now that a team came in to abduct Anduin. My best guess is two rogues, a mage, and a priest,” Mathias began. “I have a feeling when we get that map from Captain Cain, with the disturbances marked, we’ll see the route they took to get in, and it will avoid all the stealth detection devices we have set up in the public areas.”

He took a deep breath and continued, tracing a familiar scar on the arm of the sofa. “I think this falls under SI:7’s jurisdiction, because we’re going to need stealth and quiet to find Anduin. We don’t need word getting out about this. I know you’re going to expect me to recuse myself, King Greymane, but you know I can’t do that.”

“What’s going on on? Why wouldn’t you be involved, Shaw?” Renzik asked.

Mathias ignored him and kept going. “I think at this point it’s safe to guess this is not a Horde sanctioned abduction, with the armistice still in place. The image in the portal shows human construction, so we could be looking at any number of threats within our own people. However, I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t suggest we speak to someone, anyone, in the Horde itself. I would offer up Baine Bloodhoof, since he corresponds frequently with Anduin, and he’s well-liked among the Horde Council.”

Genn frowned, thinking. “He would be the most neutral party they have.”

Mathias nodded. “Then we need to get a letter to him, request a meeting somewhere on equal footing. Dalaran, perhaps, and tomorrow if we can manage it. He’d be more likely to agree to a meeting with someone if you request it, but I need to be there.”

“I don’t think that wise, Master Shaw. Your judgment is compromised in this situation,” Genn objected.

“Shaw, what’s going on?” Renzik demanded.

“Nothing important,” he hedged.

“Absolutely everything important,” Genn countered, glaring at Mathias. “He’s fucking Anduin.”

What?

Mathias sighed. “Our involvement with Anduin notwithstanding, I need to be there to see if Bloodhoof’s lying. Unless you want to send someone else that’s just as good at identifying liars, and few others are. I would rather not involve any more people.”

“Our? Shaw, you need to talk to me, man. This is going to fuck up a lot of things,” Renzik said, frowning.

“Hasn’t yet. However, this is going to change a lot of things. King Greymane, am I to accompany you to see High Chieftain Bloodhoof? Or will you request someone else go, widening the circle of trust?” Mathias stared at Genn, unwilling to back down.

The other man met his eyes, and the two stared hard at each other. Finally, Genn sighed and nodded. “You’re right. We can’t afford to bring anyone else in yet. Go. Meet Bloodhoof. I’ll have the letter dispatched within the hour, requesting the meeting in Dalaran tomorrow at noon.”

Mathias sat back on the sofa. “Thank you.”

Renzik spoke up. “Where do we go if he doesn’t pan out?”

The three of them exchanged glances. Mathias wondered if either of the others would speak. His hand drifted to his pocket, touching his compass. An enchanted Winter’s Veil gift from Anduin, he never left his flat without it. He pulled it out, absently rubbing the front, where Flynn’s ship, The Bold Arva, had been engraved on the cover. Flynn should be almost to Boralus, and would be back home in about a week. If they didn’t find Anduin by then, well, then Mathias would be hunting a missing king and dealing with a very angry sailor. He didn’t relish the thought.

He opened the compass, sparing a moment to make sure Flynn’s needle pointed in the north-western direction of Kul Tiras. Pulling the back down, he set his finger in the center of the lion engraved there, and turned it over, watching as the third needle appeared, pointing north.

He took a deep breath, wishing they had more clues to go on. “I know which direction they went with him.”