Anduin brushed away his tears. "They've been watching us for some time. Who do you think they are?"
Varian mused, "Likely assassins. Possibly taking advantage of the holiday distractions, a good time when the leaders of Stormwind would be together in public. So, what is your plan?"
Anduin tried to glance around without being obvious. "They will hit us from the east, trying to cover the main exit. We will be faced with a blunt attack of force, not guile. If we put our backs to the west wall, we can be sure to face them on more even terms."
Varian could not suppress his smile. "Impressive. You actually were listening to all those tedious lessons I gave."
"You've taught me more than you know, Father."
Varian nodded and Anduin grinned in reply. Something unspoken passed between them, something that needed no words.
A roar of rockets overhead suddenly broke the silence. Magic missiles shot high into the air from the Valley of Heroes and exploded above the city with a blossoming cascade of colors and shapes. The closing ceremonies of Remembrance Day had begun.
But the fireworks were also the signal for something else. From all around, a group of dangerous-looking men emerged from cover. Each of them carried ugly weapons and the grim face of an assassin intent on killing.
Varian turned to his son, almost enjoying the moment. "It appears I'm going to be a little late for my speech."
The attackers converged on the two men, and Varian counted ten of them. Not a problem, Varian thought, until Anduin pointed to the rear and they both saw another man appear from behind a tree. This last one was a very powerful sorcerer: his dark purple robes glowed with protections, and burning runes of energy orbited his gnarled staff.
"I don't like the look of that one," Varian said, drawing his sword. Anduin nodded and unfastened his bow, then nocked an arrow.
As they watched, the sorcerer waved his staff, tracing a large glowing oval in the air as he began to chant words of summoning.
More fireworks split the sky above, and the attackers suddenly charged at the king and prince. The booms overhead drowned out the harsh battle cries of the assassins as a vicious clash of steel sent sparks and blood flying, and from across Stormwind Lake, the twin voices of father and son echoed out proudly, "For the Alliance!"
A kaleidoscope of people surrounded the great statues along the bridge over the Valley of Heroes. The crowd cheered the wizard's magic fireworks with wild abandon as the explosions reverberated back and forth between the walls of the city and into the moat below.
Tailors, blacksmiths, cooks, vendors, and soldiers alike stood shoulder to shoulder across the bridge and as far down the road to Goldshire as the eye could see. Everyone was having a wonderful time, caught up in the spectacle.
But onstage, a contingent of the Honor Delegation was not as enthusiastic. King Wrynn was scheduled to speak next, yet he was nowhere to be found! Jaina and Mathias Shaw gave each other worried glances as Field Marshal Afrasiabi stood at the podium waving to the crowd. It was to be the field marshal's great honor to introduce King Wrynn today for his speech. But as the fireworks display came to a close and the king of Stormwind was nowhere in sight, the ceremony was now well off track, and Afrasiabi did not like it when plans went off track.
The field marshal turned and growled, "Blast it! Where is he?" Everyone onstage shrugged, and Afrasiabi gave a glancing smile to the audience, then huddled with the delegates and heads of state. The delegation itself was in disarray, arguing over every possibility and contingency. Some of the nobles wanted the ceremony to move forward, king or no king. Others insisted they must wait for their leader, no matter how long it took.
General Jonathan, ever the tactician, had a compromise plan. "Field Marshal, I suggest you begin a delaying action. Feint and bluff. Hold the line, as it were, while we go look for the king." Jaina and Mathias nodded in agreement.
The field marshal liked this new strategy even less. "General, I am a commander of the king's armies; I am not a circus performer." He scowled at everyone but was met only by a collection of desperate faces, each pleading for him to take one for the team.
"But I have nothing prepared!" the field marshal protested.
"Just improvise. Distract them. Keep them entertained," came a chorus of responses.
The crowd grumbled anxiously behind him, and finally Afrasiabi gave in with a sigh. Muttering under his breath, he turned to the fickle throng. "Damn blasted gnome and pony shows…"
The high commander of Stormwind forced a smile that outshone even the gleaming patchwork of medals that adorned his armor, and he began to regale the audience with one of his favorite topics—the fascinating history, and little-known nuisances, of steam-engine siege tactics.
Varian Wrynn moved like a wind elemental, jumping and spinning in every direction, desperate to protect his son at all costs. One moment, he was charging to the left, swinging his sword in wide sweeps just to push back a line of attackers; the next, he was intercepting another group pressing Anduin from the other side, slashing his savage blade Shalamayne down with deadly effect.
They kept the stone wall to their backs and tried to repel the attackers, but despite their best efforts, the king and prince could not make headway toward the sorcerer. In the back, the magician was clearly summoning something into Stormwind, and his portal was growing more distinct by the minute.
Varian parried one attacker's axe, then removed both the assassin's weapon and the arm that held it with a crushing follow-through of his sword. Varian leaped forward, trying to press the advantage, but each time he made progress toward the summoner, the attackers capitalized on Varian's fear for his son and closed in on the boy. It became clear to the king that the assassins were just toying with him until something else could be brought through the portal, though what it might be he could not imagine.
Varian stole a quick glance toward his son and was filled with pride. The prince bravely stood his ground, firing arrow after arrow into the attackers. Many of the assassins were now bristling with feathered shafts, but even so, only three had fallen. Dark magic was at work.