A War of Loyalties

Place: A Hero’s Welcome, Greymane Enclave, Dalaran, Broken Isles

ornament

Amber Kearnen was dead.

Reswin frowned down into his full mug, both wanting to drink it to try to forget her dead body and not having the energy to lift the mug. Even though he’d washed up, he could still feel the sticky sensation of her blood on his fingers. Could still smell it with the overpowered senses that had been a part of him for only a few months.

That was probably the worst thing. The fact that one part of him recoiled at the sight of her body and the other surged forward purely at the scent of blood. He’d barely held himself together while examining her body a day ago with several other rogues and those who worked under the Uncrowned. When they were done, he’d bolted and hadn’t even made it up the stairs that led up out of the Hall of Shadows into Glorious Goods before the transformation had taken him.

He’d been lucky that no one had seen him lose it so utterly. Thankfully he couldn’t lose his mind because of the work the Gilneans had done to cure their own afflicted with the worgen curse as well as what the Night Elves had helped them with. It had still shaken him though that it could just happen like that.

Growling under his breath, Reswin finally lifted the mug to his mouth and took a long swig. The familiar taste of Aerie Peak Pale was comforting since he was sitting in Dalaran above the Broken Isles and not anywhere that he normally spent his time. He hadn’t been anywhere he normally was in some time.

Not since that failed mission in Duskwood.

Not since the mage Katrina Wardstone had found him lying bleeding off the edge of the road, unable to quite finish making his way to Raven Hill with the right side of his face utterly blinded.

Not since he’d been struggling to come to terms with this thing that was now a part of him.

What made it all the worse was that he wasn’t supposed to say anything to SI:7 about Amber’s death. Not about them finding her in the Hall or what they’d done with the body…nothing. To not tell them went against everything that he knew, against everything he was.

His loyalty was to SI:7, not the Uncrowned!

Unbidden a snarl bubbled past his lips and Reswin angrily slammed a hand down onto the table. It rattled far more than it probably should have, moved with more strength than he knew he had, and his eye darted over to his arm.

Thick white fur was already peeking through the bandages that hid most of the heavy scarring on his arms and he let out a rattling breath. Drawing his arm back towards him and covering it with the other (which was blessedly clear at the moment, thank the Light), he looked up and met the eyes of the human barmaid Marcella with his one as she picked up used mugs from an empty table. She just tilted her head back behind her at an open doorway and said, “There’s a bit of a lead up to a tower over there if you need a minute or two. Not the first time one of your lot lost it in the building, so most folks know to keep it clear.”

He blinked at her for a moment before he rose, already feeling it taking hold despite his best efforts to hold it back. His body wanted it.

Pointing down at his half full mug, he asked, “Can you bring up two more? And whatever food Katherine and Derek have for supper tonight?” Reswin could hear his voice already gaining an unnatural growl, his throat turning into one more suited for them than the one he’d been born with. When she nodded, her expression sympathetic, he managed a quick thank you before he grabbed his mug (he wasn’t about to waste half a mug of Aerie Pale!) and headed the way she indicated.

Through another open doorway a ramp spiraled upwards and he took it at an ever quickening pace. By the time he neared the top, he wanted to fall to all fours and bound upward even though his body wasn’t capable of such a move. Resisting, he kept a tight grip on his mug instead and practically stomped his way into the small open room at the top of the tower.

He barely regarded the three couches there, merely taking note of the table and setting his mug down on it. Then Reswin stumbled over to one of the archways that looked out over the city, collapsing against the pillar on one side as he fumbled at the buckles and ties of his armor. It was already tight, his chest attempting to expand underneath. Everything he wore had been bespelled to change when he shifted (otherwise he’d lose clothes all over the place, like he had just after he’d been given the cure that kept his mind clear and hadn’t had any control over the shift). It just took a minute for the magic to kick in during the change and he still wasn’t used to the brief sensation of being choked by his own clothing.

He let out a hiss as his spine crunched and remembered one of the warnings from the Raven Hill worgen who’d patched him up. Let it happen, he’d growled. You fight it and it’s just going to hurt, pup.

He’d asked if it would hurt less if he did. The worgen had just huffed out a heavy breath before replying, Sometimes.

Reswin gritted his teeth as his entire body shuddered. This was one of those occasions where he wasn’t fighting it but it still hurt. He dug his fingers into the stone of the pillar as the pain rippled outward from his back and became aware of the fact that claws had already formed from his normal nails as they thickened and sharpened.

Then his knees buckled and the rest of the change took him in a rush that stole his breath. Bracing his other hand against the floor as the other dragged down the pillar, claws gouging slightly into the stone, Reswin sucked in several deep breaths and closed his one good eye as his now much broader chest heaved. It always took a good moment after the change took him for his lungs to adjust to the fact that they had to abruptly power a bigger body.

Slowly he shifted his weight to one hand and tugged at his belt buckle, opening it and letting his twin rapiers drop to the carpet covered floor with a pair of dull thumps. Then Reswin heaved himself up onto first one foot then the other and stumbled the few steps over to the closest couch. He caught the claws of one hand against the back and winced as they scraped against the wood, yet managed to swing around without much other issue and sat down heavily. Slumping back into the couch, he closed his eye and tilted his head back as the last twitches of his muscles faded away from the sudden transformation.

He’d been told that transforming more made it easier, that it gave him greater control. Not complete, there was never complete control of the curse, but it would be some. He hadn’t yet been able to make himself do it outside a battle.

Honestly he hated it. Hated how out of control it made him feel. Even when he knew he had that control, it still felt sometimes like it was about to slip through his fingers.

And yet, as the members of The Päck had noted since he’d been put into contact with them after he’d been released from the care of the worgen he’d been turned over to in Stormwind after being transported from Raven Hill, he had to.

The curse was a part of him now, no matter how much he might hate it or want to deny it. It was up to him to make peace with that.

Huffing out a breath, Reswin straightened up and opened his eye again as he heard footsteps on the ramp. He sat there, ears flicking slightly as they sat erect at attention to listen, until Marcella’s head appeared. She didn’t seem at all bothered by the sight of him but, then again, she’d probably been around a lot of worgen since she’d pointed him up here. Not to mention the fact that the Enclave was guarded by Gilnean worgen guards.

He didn’t even spend a lot of time around the Enclave but he knew they were there. Gilneans smelt just that little bit different than other worgen, he’d discovered.

Marcella smiled gently at him as she sat down a tray with a covered bowl and two more heavy mugs down on the table and Reswin’s nostrils flared as she lifted the lid. The smell of a rich, hearty stew hit like a punch to the nose and he instantly felt saliva gathering in his mouth. He swallowed heavily and then flicked his eye back as he found the barmaid still half leaning over, her face serious as she looked at him.

Narrowing his good eye at her, he growled, “What?”

“You’re a new one,” she commented softly. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a new worgen. Years. I didn’t think it was still a thing that happened.”

Snorting, Reswin gruffly jerked his head away and looked out of the tower over the tops of Dalaran’s buildings. He hadn’t thought that new worgen was a thing either, not with it being a few years since the reintroduction of the Gilneans to the world at large. Letting out a breath, he softly replied, “Neither did I.”

“And you’re not a Gilnean.”

“No, ma’am.”

She blinked at that then laughed, a bright noise that cut sharply through the heaviness of his own thoughts. “Ma’am!” she exclaimed, shaking her head. Then Marcella sobered and he turned his head back towards her in order to see her just as she straightened up. “Well,” she said, “I remember how a lot of them were in the first days when worgen started showing up in Dalaran. Take all the time you need up here and I’ll make sure no one comes up here for a while. An hour or two?”

Reswin just blinked at her then slowly nodded, somewhat confused by the kindness of a stranger. As she smiled at him and started to turn away, he impulsively reached out his arm despite the fact that she was too far away for him to touch and said her name. She turned back, looking at him and then down at the frankly monstrous white furred hand extended towards her – the only thing human about it the fingerless glove stretched over it and its general shape. For a moment his voice choked in his throat then he managed, “Thank you.”

Marcella smiled and gently slid her fingers around his, causing him to hold himself eerily still lest he hurt her. He’d learned well in his first days that his claws were deadly and had had the fact demonstrated by the Raven Hill worgen several times and several more by those in Stormwind. She seemed to know all of the places to avoid, moving her hand skillfully away from the curved edges, and replied with a soft, “You’re welcome.”

Then she retreated, drawing her hand from his, and Reswin watched the back of her head until she had disappeared down the ramp. He waited until he heard her footsteps reach the bottom of the ramp – worgen ears were good for that, at least – before he turned his attention to the open bowl. The smell of the stew was like a physical pull, dragging him down, and he gave in after a moment, knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to change back for a little while longer. And by then the stew would be cold.

When he was done, he wiped his muzzle carefully clean with the cloth that had also been included on the tray. He then quickly finished off the mug he had brought up and picked up one of the new ones before he leaned back into the couch.

Reswin flicked his ears at the sounds of Dalaran bustling below him and growled softly before he took a sip from his mug. His mind wandered and eventually settled on what had gotten him into his present situation. Investigating weird behavior of the Night Watch in Darkshire had gotten him bitten, swiftly followed by a leave of absence from SI:7 until he could get his shit together. In the intervening months between, his fellows had gone to the Broken Shore to investigate and that had lead to a ruinous campaign that had ended with his King dead as well as the Horde’s Warchief.

Then he’d gotten a letter asking him to travel to Dalaran, signed by his uncle, that had led to him being recruited by the Uncrowned. Because, as Uncle Glynn had whispered to him after his introduction to Lord Ravenholdt and the others, “There is something rotten in SI:7, son. You haven’t been around to see it because of what happened in Duskwood, but trust me, it’s happening. With this lot, we can get it out.”

And yet…and yet…

If they were doing good, why did he feel like a traitor for not going home and telling everyone that Amber was dead? Light preserve, she had family who needed to know.

Sighing heavily, Reswin shook his head and looked out over Dalaran.

What was he to do but continue helping the investigation? He hadn’t known Amber Kearnen except by reputation but he knew enough to know she hadn’t deserved this. She hadn’t deserved lie dead in the Dalaran sewers with a knife in her back.

A growl bubbled up in his throat, deep and menacing as it spilled past suddenly bared lips and sharp fangs, and he knew.

He would help the Uncrowned figure out what his uncle was talking about being rotten in SI:7.

He would find it and those behind it, hunt them down with all of the spying skills his mentor Dunes had taught him and the keen nose he’d been cursed with.

And he would see whoever had done the deed brought to justice.

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