Quest for Pandaria

Part 4 of 4

Baenan almost feared that his pounding heart would be audible to everyone in the captain's quarters. Steadying himself, he gazed around the room jammed full of orcs, trolls, a tauren, two goblins (arguing over who got to stand on the captain's desk), and a moldering, putrid Forsaken. There was also one of those pandaren folks, he noticed with a start—like the girl on the Elwynn. He creased his brows. The girl had said she'd been traveling with her uncle. Could this be he? And if so, why was he here with the Horde?

Baenan looked at Captain Aldrek, who parted his lips in a wide, predatory grin.

"Now," the captain began smoothly, "let's discuss this matter like reasonable people."

Baenan swallowed and managed to find his voice. "As ye know, we're concerned about th' presence o' Horde warships this far south—"

"These are neutral waters," Aldrek countered.

"That is th' truth," Baenan replied, "but ye had tae sail through Theramore's territory tae get here, which—"

"How do you know we didn't come from Grom'gol Base Camp in Stranglethorn?" Aldrek interrupted.

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"Did ye?" Baenan asked bluntly.

That caught Aldrek off guard, and he hesitated long enough to make the answer obvious. His smile grew harder. "We are here on the warchief's orders, on reconnaissance," he said, his voice carrying a warning.

"Look," Baenan responded, "I'm a dwarf. Me people are a straightforward bunch. Ye say ye're here on reconnaissance. Well, ye may be, but we got no way o' knowin' that. We just want our holdings in Theramore tae be safe. Let us escort ye back tae Durotar's waters. That's me captain's offer."

He creased his brows. The girl had said she'd been traveling with her uncle. Could this be he? And if so, why was he here with the Horde?

Captain Aldrek burst out laughing. Baenan's heart sank.

"And that's precisely the offer I'm rejecting," the orc said. He snapped his fingers at a guard.

"This dwarf is our prisoner."

Baenan's first instinct was to fight for his freedom, but that was clearly a bad idea. He was outnumbered, and he had been disarmed when he had embarked on the Warchief's Fist.

"I knew ye were a bunch o' lyin' cowards," he muttered, which earned him a cuff on the head from another orc.

"And yet you chose to trust us," Aldrek said, his face smug. "Lock him up in the bilge and find someone to watch him. Call all hands on deck. While the Alliance thinks we're still negotiating, prepare the cannons."

As Baenan was marched out of the room, it took Chen every ounce of willpower he possessed to maintain an unaffected expression. He had nearly leaped to the dwarf's defense, but had quickly reconsidered. He wanted to find out more about what was going on. Much as it pained him, he had to wait until the time was right to act.

***

Nita faced Captain Heller in his quarters. Several naval officers, their hands clasped formally behind their backs, flanked the negotiators.

"Captain," she began, "I'd like to offer a full explanation of our ship's movements—"

"Nita," Heller interrupted her, "I'm not interested in the how or why of the Horde's movements. I just want your people to get out."

"These waters are neutral," she countered. "We have as much right to be here as you do."

"That may be true," Heller continued, unmoved, "but you pose a threat. I will not be satisfied that the threat is contained until your ship is back in Durotar, where it belongs."

"I can relay that to my captain, if you wish," Nita said tentatively.

"No, I think we will communicate with him directly," said Heller. "You will stay here as collateral to make sure our message is properly heard."

Nita's mouth dropped open. "What? You are holding me prisoner?"

"I do what I must," Captain Heller said. "Seize her."

Four officers grabbed her arms. "This is outrageous!" she cried as she struggled against her captors. "I am a druid of the Cenarion Circle! I have worked alongside Malfurion Stormrage himself!"

"How nice," Captain Heller replied. "If I ever meet him, I shall be sure to tell him that I know you."

***

Bound uncomfortably in the bilge of the Warchief's Fist, Baenan could hear distant rumblings that sounded like the march of feet and the rolling into place of heavy cannons. The filthy orc captain was preparing to launch an attack against the Elwynn, and Baenan couldn't do anything to stop it. There was nothing worse than helplessness. He raged at the Horde.

Captain Aldrek hadn't left Baenan alone in his prison. A haughty blood elf, Talithar, stood guard, looking decidedly bored. Baenan hated him with every fiber of his very being.

"Ye worthless Horde," Baenan snarled. "Captain Heller will sink ye tae th' bottom o' th' sea as snacks fer th' naga."

"And you with us, if he succeeds," Talithar replied. "Tragic, really. In order for you to live, your friends have to lose."

"If I die, I'll die happy, knowin' ye're goin' with me," Baenan retorted.

"How very noble of you to feel that way."

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