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((WR September)) The Guardsmen

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Location: A small transport vessel just off shore of Stormwind’s Docks.
Time of day: Early Afternoon

The early afternoon bid farewell to a small mooring incident in Stormwind’s docks. A transport ship now sat anchored awkwardly away from the dock itself, accosted by rowboats for the Stormwind Guard. "I swear it's true! I saw it wit me own eyes!" A ragged Victim of a man howled as he was throttled by a guard. The angered man in lighter armor was only made more agitated by the crying of the lowlife he was holding up against the bulkhead.

"Listen here, dock rat! Three of my best men were killed by this creature, and you mean to tell me that we amidst the Stormwind Guard should just let it go on your account?!" The guard shouted back, tossing the panicked man back and drawing his blade, only to be stopped as more guardsmen approached.

"Stand down! This man is a victim, not the culprit, Lieutenant!" Barked an older man, forcing the angered guardsman to heel. A veteran guard captain stepped forward. Accompanying him, a rather vicious looking worgen. The Captain was a human, and on in the years with a head of sheet white hair, matching his full beard. He approached the cowering man and knelt before him.
"Your word checks out, son. We searched the ship, and found the remains of a Prisoner Trafficking Operation... However, we didn't find a sign of life beyond any of you in the brig. Our tracker here says there's the scent of many people, but no trail leading out of the boat.. Tell me, what happened to your captors?" The older guard gently commanded.

The panicked man calmed some, the words of the collected veteran putting his mind away from panic. However, fear still very much addled him, along with an ominous energy that set in his mind before rescuers arrived...
"There was... Somethin.. on the ship. Most o' us in chains were stuck below decks... But I was workin, cleanin the upper decks I was... They said we was jus' stopping 'ere fer a quick resupply b'fore we sailed south.. err I think that's what the cap'n was sayin." The man stammered and shook as he spoke, flinching when the Captain questioned him.

"And your relation to the crew here? If these men were selling prisoners as slaves, why did you have it so easy?" The Captain asked. The man stopped moving for a moment, looking up at the veteran guard for a few moments before speaking again.

"....I... I'm a brewer... Sir... Was doin time in Tol'Dagor fer some trouble me business ran inte.... But when I was to be transferred te Stormwind fer re-trial, these dastards picked me out an' told me I was workin fer them cleanin decks and brewin booze... I reckon they'd have killed me if I refused... So I... I worked..." The man explained, recalling his role onboard a small vessel in the harbor. However his tone grew shaky, fearful, panicked... The Captain studied the man's reaction, and spoke up, trying to keep the fearful Victim focused.

"I’m not here to send you to the stockades, lad. I want to know where the rest of the crew here went. Tell me, what happened?" He gently commanded once more.

"I was cleanin' the decks. They had one of those dastards watchin me around the cages... He told me the go up a deck and refill his tankard, so I started walkin.. but... But when I approached the galley... Somethin was off.... The galley be empty... An' I found nutin but clothes strewn 'bout it... I was bout te tap the keg when me body stopped movin... It was....cold... So cold... B'fore I knew it, I was on the ground.... Somethin was lookin at me... It asked me questions..." The man explained as his tone once more returned to shaking. He pulled himself into a ball, eyes wide with tears as his words and tone once more embraced fear. "It asked me what the crew looked like compared to prisoners... I told um, we slaves was all wearin' the same shackles.... Oh Light... Im the reason they're all dead... I--" He began to stammer before the Captain interrupted him.

"Focus. What was asking you this? What was this creature?" The Captain asked, trying to redirect the man's focus from the increasingly tense atmosphere amidst the other guards.

"It... It was small... Real small... Bout the size o' a dog… looked like one too... But standin up... It was dark...fluffy, wit big ears... Red eyes.... No... They was purple... I think..." He began once more before cowering at the interruption.

"Well what was it?! Captain, this dastard's not making any sense! I say we throw um into the stockades and properly interro--" the Lieutenant began before he found himself grappled and thrown into the bulkhead, held tightly by the throat. The Captain's eyes glared into his, silence overtaking the moment before he spoke.

"Stand. Down. Lieutenant. One more outburst, and the only one getting softened up in the stockades will be you... Understand?" The Captain growled. A subtle nod was all he received as confirmation, but it was enough to release the foolish guard, who quickly fell back into ranks.

"It was a Vulpera..." Came the gravelly voice of the worgen tracker. While questions were being asked, he continuously sniffed the air, looking around the empty ship. "The scent is hidden expertly... But with that description I'm almost certain." He added, before his and the Captain's gaze returned to the cowering man.

"What did this creature do after you answered it?" The Captain once more requested.

"It told me te stay down. So I did... But.. when the guard came up the stairs te yell at me fer takin too long, I saw it... I saw what it did..." The man started before breaking down into a panic. Rocking back and forth, his eyes were washed over with fear, almost unnaturally so... "It leapt outta the man's shadow.. an’ b'fore he could do a thing he was dead.... And then.... He.. turned te dust.. they all did.. everyone attached to the crew was killed one by one... An' all I could do was watch.." the man pressed his nerves to finish an explanation, but broke down in the end, sobbing and sniffling. The tracker looked about as annoyed as the rest of the guards dealing with this witness... But the Captain continued studying the man. They were absolutely cowering, as if afflicted by a spell...

"Fetch a priest." The Captain commanded. "We got no word of any Vulpera on this ship, and no other victims say they saw anything like this." He added.

"What would a priest be able to do?" Asked one of the younger guardsmen.

"His fear. It's unnatural. We need someone capable of detecting magic, and I'll bet fifty gold we're dealing with one type in particular.." the Captain answered. The years in service granted him no glorious exploits, or powers to behold, however it did grant knowledge of what magic was often used for. Each element had their signs. The elements were the most obvious, however some were more subtle... And atop the list of magics he disliked dealing with sat Shadow. Fear, doubt, confusion, it all fit. The man had been cursed with panic, but not killed outright...

"But what of the guards?! My men personally patrolled the docks and searched this ship!" The Lieutenant once more piped up. The rest of the guards readied for the Captain to fulfill his promise of throttling the man, however it wouldn't come.

"Idunno! I swear idunno!! I passed out after i saw it dust the crew and woke up wit swords te me neck!" The man panicked.

"Tracker. How many guardsmen patrolled this ship?" The Captain asked.

"Three of them. Their armors were found in the captain's quarters along with the remains of the crew's leadership. No signs of combat." The Tracker replied.

The Lieutenant stopped as he received a blunt look from the Captain, who stood between him and the victim, a hand resting on the hilt of his blade.

"Lieutenant.. How do we conduct our ship searches here in the docks?" The Captain asked pointedly.

"P-parties of five. Unless undermanned, as we are now. I was confident a party of three could handle a small trade ship search." The Lieutenant replied.

"Ah yes. But it would appear the ship was searched before it made it to the dock… There were no signs of conflict, leaving your men dead in the room with this ship’s captain..." The Captain asked once more.

“What are you insinuating?” The Lieutenant hissed in reply. Glaring back at the Captain in turn. The room went tense, the Lieutenant went silent, as he and the Captain glared each other down. Tracker, as he was called stepped back before getting addressed once more.

"Tracker. You searched the remains for evidence. Tell me.. What did you find on the bodies of Stormwind's Finest in the captain's quarters?" The Captain asked once more, his gaze locked on the now on edge Lieutenant...

"Each guard had their coinpurse and belongings, but also a satchel with five hundred gold pieces, Captain." The Tracker replied once more. And with that, the Captain drew his blade.

"Care to tell me what your squad was doing with their holiday bonus so early, Lieutenant?" The Captain asked as he drew his blade, moving towards the Lieutenant, however his footfalls fell short, his blade turned heavy, along with his shield. Where there was strength, a moment later it began to melt away...

The Tracker appeared affected as well, and the scene of the Captain falling to a knee sent the remaining guards into alert! Drawing swords and hammers, they turned to the Lieutenant, who by now had merely raised a hand to his Captain...

"You arrived so quickly, Captain, I had no time to prepare a villain for you... If any of you want your Captain leaving this ship you'll do as I say! Drop your weapons, and leave!" The Lieutenant commanded as a wisp of energy flashed around his raised hand. A faint link of energy bound the Captain's weakened body to his...

Fel magic... That one was second on the list of awful magic to deal with.. the guard Captain's strength was sapped, and he was unable to even raise a hand against the revealed crook before him. All he could do was shoot an aged glare. The remaining guards hesitated, however released their weapons and backed away. The room was cleared for now... Aside from the cowering brewer, hostage guard Captain, and the Tracker, who by this time was also down to a knee.

"You too! Get out of here, worgen!" The Lieutenant commanded, still sapping the strength from his former Captain.. however, the Tracker gave no reply.. "I SAID MOVE! HEY!" He shouted, taking a step towards the worgen. A thud was heard as the Tracker hit the floor.. His lack of response was not defiance, but rather exhaustion... Something else had afflicted them, harmlessly knocking out the hardened Tracker. The look of surprise in the Lieutenant's eyes was enough for the Captain to realize the gravity of their situation. He struggled to remain upright, staring up at the warlock's confusion as the Tracker fell. He obviously had no idea of what was happening. Pushing himself, the Captain spared a look back at the Victim to find him sprawled out on the ground, breathing, but unconscious, just like the Tracker. Both of his worst dealings were here, within the same ship. However the Lieutenant had no realization of this.. He barked at the Tracker to get up, then at the Victim, then turned his gaze back to the Captain..

"What is the meaning of this?! Tell me now!" He commanded, gripping his hand, sending a pulse of pain into the Captain's body. The agony nearly made the veteran faint, however, he held his defiant gaze on the corrupted guard. Even if he explained what was happening, there was ill enough time to stop it… It was already here when they arrived… It was what killed the guards, the crew, and everyone attached to a criminal ring… It left calling card, granting innocents the mercy of sleep, but death to those it hunted… This creature was here, in the room, and had been working the entire time to close in on its prey… Looking back, the signs were obvious... the Lieutenant’s shadow had thickened as he approached the worgen. Little by little, the air began to chill as he held the Captain prisoner. By the time he commanded everyone off the deck, a sense of dread had kicked in, and even the guardsmen rookies had been affected. They were likely upstairs either dead or unconscious as the Tracker and the Victim were now... As the Lieutenant reached for the Captain's throat, realization finally hit him.. He stopped, his focus breaking, the spell fading from the Captain as the warlock began to look around. The room was... darker... Light from the windows faded, and at this point candlelight was becoming more of a necessity... The Lieutenant whipped his eyes around as he stepped away from the Captain. He opened his mouth to speak. "What is--" was all he could manage before he was cut off by the entity haunting the room...

It was instantaneous... As the corrupt guard opened his mouth to speak, from his swelled shadow burst a small, blackened creature! Like an animal lunging at prey, the visage of a wolf-like creature collided with the Lieutenant’s upper torso, enveloping him in a blackened aura from the shoulders up! Not a sound was heard from the strike as the visage hit and passed through the Lieutenant, fading away after a moment to reveal the damage! A clean cut, starting from just under his right shoulder, all the way across to the top of his left collarbone. A blackened mist wafted from the wound before the Lieutenant’s body split, and began to fall in two pieces. Skin turned black as a pulse of shadow energy wreaked havoc across his body! As he toppled over in sections, flesh and bone would waste away into a blackened ash which littered the air only for a moment before disappearing! The sound of the Lieutenant’s armor hitting the deck was all the was heard after the strike... The Captain coughed up a small amount of blood, holding himself upright as his eyes desperately scanned the room..

There, just behind where the traitorous warlock stood before his swift demise, was a Vulpera cloaked in shadows. The shadow-enveloped image of the small creature stared into the Captain's eyes as silence once more commanded the room.

"...Targets...Eliminated..." Came a darkened, multi-toned voice, seemingly from multiple directions. Though ears would deceive him, the Captain knew what this was... as he fell to his side, the veteran guard Captain breathed shakily, now stuck in the room with his eyes locked in the gaze of the very predator that eliminated an entire gang of traitors and thieves... Him and the Tracker could easily have been next... But as light began to return to the deck, the Captain's eyes grew heavy.. he needed to blink... Just once... However as his eyes tried to reopen... They failed to muster the strength... and like that, the Captain fell to the deck, unconscious, granted the mercy of sleep he feared would be denied...

"Quickly! There's survivors on this deck!!! Where's the Priest?! Get him in here, now!"

Panic burst forward as the rookie guardsmen were the first to awaken. Their last clear memories being of the guard captain telling them to fetch a priest before questioning the Leuitenant, who was nowhere to be found. A high alert platoon of rookie guardsmen re-entered the ship with weapons drawn to find a set of armor, cut clear across the upper torso, and an unconscious trio. The Tracker, the Captain, and the Victim were brought to the ward immediately, unharmed, but unable to wake for some time. The Haunt that evaded their eyes was a professional assassin for certain, but much else of any detailed information gained by the stalwart Captain was lost amidst his sleep. Whatever snuck onboard that ship was hunting the very rats that infested the docks, fortunately enough for the rest, their interference was forgiven. The Tracker appeared to be the most befuddled, only remembering searching the ship before blacking out.

"Your report, Captain. You claim you saw a Vulpera before you lost consciousness. Did you see any Horde insignia by chance?" Asked one Major to the recovering Captain.

"None.. I was only awake long enough to see it strike my former Lieutenant down." The Captain replied.

"Even after the Legion's defeat, fel is still a nasty problem." The Major replied, sighing as he sat at the bed the Captain lay in.

"I fear for it." The Captain answered.

"For what?" The Major asked, slightly confused by the sudden empathy.

"That Vulpera waited under the noses of Stormwind's Guards, a veteran tracker, a crew of thieves and slavers, and a platoon of my finest recruits. By the time any of us realized, it was far too late... I fear for whatever it's hunting... But for now... I'm just glad it wasn't me or any of my loyal men this day..." The Captain answered, his tone chilled still from the incident.

The Major sighed, nodded, and patted the bed. "Considering those harmed were all proven to be in allegiance with a group of criminals, we can rule that this was no attack from the Horde on our city.. however many will have questions." The Major replied.

"Send them to me, then. I am certain whatever this creature was, its only crime was acting out as a vigilante." The Captain replied.

"You're gonna need a big vacation after everyone else is done with you." The Major half joked, before the Captain answered him.

"I plan to take one.."

Edited by Chestius

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