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The Huntsman in Chains

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Soft leather boots squished against wet cobblestones in the dank, dark depths of the Stormwind City Stockades. Looking around and seeing the agonized faces of prisoners of every race, height, age, and build imaginable, Baron felt the heat in his chest rising at the thought of his father's unjust imprisonment. Locking him up amongst thieves, rapers, and murderers...if I make it out of this dungeon without snapping someone's neck, it'll be a miracle. His own men had learned not to provoke him for any reason. They knew enough to fear his wrath, his sword, and his beasts of war. But these false knights that led him to his father's cell knew not of him. They had never heard of the Bloody Baron. That made this situation all the more dangerous.

"Here we are," the portly man in shimmering plate armor announced boredly as he unlocked a simple wooden door. I bet this fat man has never had a scratch put in that armor of his, Baron thought to himself bitterly. It was insulting how easy it would be to free Lord Walden Hunter from his captivity. Clearly these southerners had lost all respect for Gilneas' nobility in their years of isolation.

"About damn time," Baron barked, shoving the man out of the way. He entered the cell and the door slammed shut behind him. He heard the two knights snickering and whispering insults as they stood outside. He sniffed angrily and bit back a taunt of his own.

"Calm yourself, son," a man in rags and tattered from head to toe said, "Save your rage for the true foes. The living are not worth the effort." Baron almost didn't recognize his father looking to disheveled. His hair was ordinarily well-groomed and a slick light brown color, but now it was a ratty tangle and more the color of dirt or dung. His dark brown eyes were still sharp and skeptical as always, but now they were bloodshot from the gloom. Baron spied a small pile of books in the corner of the cell.

"You convinced them to give you reading material," Baron said with no humor in his voice, "With guards as stupid as those, you ought to have just asked them to leave the door unlocked so you could visit a library yourself."

"Nonsense, I don't have to ask for anything. I tell them to get me books, and they bring them. Just because Greymane saw fit to strip me of my title, I have not lost my noble blood. Those wretches know how to grovel to a man of power when they hear him call." The man rose to his feet, and Baron felt foolish for having not recognized him. The man held himself in that same self-assured manner as ever, as thought he already knew what the result of the conversation would be and was thinking about some other scheme.

If he truly knew what I was about to say, he wouldn't look so pleased with himself. He nearly growled in response, "Can you not escape this prison, then? I did not ask to become the head of the household! Every morning one of your bootlickers comes to me looking for favors or loan repayments. I cannot even return to Stranglethorn to see my wives with all the 'important matters' to deal with in Stormwind!"

Walden struck his son. The backhanded slap echoed in the small space, though Baron hardly moved when hit. Its true force was the power to silence him. "You will not complain to me about your duties again. You are my eldest son. It is unbecoming of you to whine like a sullen child. You will appease every last one of the House's allies and you will not leave the capital until Greymane gives you my former position in the army. That is all you must do for now. If I hear a word of ill report about you from those back-country fools outside the door, you will be forced to give up the sword and sit at a desk the rest of your life. Do I make myself clear?"

Baron's fists clenched furiously, but he knew he was trapped. "Yes, Father," was all he managed to say from between his teeth.

"And if you ever mention those whores you call wives again, I'll send Grant to hang them all."

"Yes, Father." Baron had to bite his tongue to keep himself from saying any more.

"Now then, tell me what I summoned you here for."

Baron took a deep breath and relaxed his body. He would definitely kill someone tonight. "We received word back from the Wetlands. The treasury was looted without a hitch, Grant got it all down into the tunnels before the Vanguard even knew it was being taken. It was all in place down in the cave Creighton picked out, but something happened." 

Walden's eyebrow rose. "Something happened?"

"Walther's brat managed to sniff out the cave through Creighton's traps. Grant wasn't at the rendezvous when our people got there. Our spy says he was toted into the cells by some elf mage named Alcabus or something. They say Creighton's locked up, too."

Walden's eyes narrowed only slightly, but it was more than enough to tell Baron he was displeased by the news. "They have your brother and Grant in cells, and all of my money?" A dangerous silence followed. Baron felt no fear, but he was anxious about what new plan his father would cook up now that his first had fallen through. "Have the spy summoned to Stormwind and cut her throat. Throw the body in the canals, but make certain you take any and all valuables off her corpse first. Make it look like a robbery and there won't be any suspicions."

Baron risked a question, "Why kill the spy?"

"There must have been an information leak. Creighton is too careful to be captured, and the cave would have been concealed too well to find by the time the Vayne girl looked for it. Someone talked, it's the only possibility."

"Very well then." Baron was more than happy to clean up the mess. At least he would get to kill someone soon. "But how are we going to carry on without that money? I have your debts to pay and new friends to keep happy, after all." He didn't conceal his resentment well.

"Pay them from your own coffers."

"You cannot be serious!" Baron stomped madly.

"Don't argue, and don't complain. If you do your job well, there will be plenty of reward. You will also need to ransom Creighton and Grant from Greenwarden's Grove. Don't even think of raising your voice at me again. Neither of them will spill any information, I am certain, but we need to smooth over our difficulties with the Night Vanguard sooner rather than later. We cannot hope to get to the girl otherwise."

"As long as her Scourge mother is alive, we'll never get close. You could at least let me kill her. It would save us all trouble." He forced himself to say this calmly, though his insides boiled with rage.

"No. It is clear now that removing Velmon is not as easy a solution as I once hoped. The child is too attached to her to be separated willingly, and now Gilneas has pardoned her. For now, Brinnea Velmon is off-limits."

"Then how are we to take the girl as a ward? The blue-eyed she-devil watches her constantly, and trusts no one she doesn't know."

"You've nearly hit the nail on the head, boy. We cannot hope to get close without someone Velmon knows, someone the Vanguard trusts. Someone who hates the undead as much as we, and cares for the child's well-being."

Baron huffed quietly. "Who then?"

"In due time. For now, focus on winning allies and freeing Creighton and Grant. Make certain that when you ransom them, you send someone who can act with a shred of diplomatic temper. And don't forget about the spy." He sat down and opened a book. The conversation was clearly over.

But Baron wasn't finished. "So that's it? No thanks or apologies? Not even so much as a 'goodbye?' Am I not still your son? Am I only a tool for your schemes?"

Walden replied without looking up, "All I do is for you and your brother. And for Gilneas. Remember that the hunter does not require praise to catch his prey. Only focus. Now go."

Baron went, slamming the door behind him. He ignored the two bumbling guards and their poorly concealed snickers as they locked his father's cell up again. I'll do your dirty work, Father. But once you are free to take back the reins, I will never be slave to your whims again!

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