(Audio Dramas 1 and 2 available here and here, if you want to listen to them before reading)


�Shadow Trader, come in,� came Peter�s voice over the pebble-sized guildstone set carefully in Mallory�s ear.

Mallory looked about to make sure it was safe to talk. She had just entered the walled almost-fortress of Sentinel Hill. Alliance soldiers dotted the walls, and no small amount of villagers milled through the grounds. She made for the gryphon master�s perch overlooking the majority of the settlement, keeping her voice down.

�What�s shakin�?� she asked quietly. She had to use phrases like that on occasion. It kept the goblins working for her thinking that she was a goblin trade prince.

�Got a report in from Darnassus,� Peter responded as Mallory leaned against a post, watching the various entrances for her appointment to arrive. �They were expecting one of our merchant ships late yesterday. The Pride of Westfall. It still hasn�t arrived.�

Mallory�s eyes narrowed as she recalled what she could of this ship. Arriving in Darnassus yesterday evening? The Pride of Westfall was a human-crewed ship sailing from Stormwind four days earlier. No goblins aboard, so little chance of mutiny. Good captain, too.

�Bad weather?� she asked, her heart sinking. Some of the merchants on that ship had their spouses and children with them.

�Not as far as we can tell,� Peter answered. �Their route was…north past the Broken Isles, then west along the coast of Northrend to reach Darnassus.�

She folded her arms, staring blankly. �And…what was the cargo?�

�No major historical items or anything. Saplings bound for Ashenvale, and assorted ore and lumber from Draenor. The lumber was to be offloaded to a goblin ship this morning and sent on to Bilgewater.�

�Which means we have some unhappy customers camped out at Rut�theran, yes?�

�Precisely. And Darnassus is not too happy about their guests.�

�Tell our clients we�re doing all we can to find the missing ship, and that their complaints will only slow down the process. Get them off of Teldrassil quickly. As for our missing ship…what can we do?�

�Shadow Trader, if I may,� came Doradrassil�s voice. �It was to go north past the Broken Isles, correct?�

�Yes,� Mallory answered. �Do you know something?� She had a bad feeling about this.

�Maybe. I�m not sure if it�s the same ship, but� On second thought…we really should discuss this more privately.�

Mallory�s heart sank further. She heard Peter sputter in surprise for a moment, then after a few quiet clicks, the Shadow Trader Network guildstone went silent, all other listeners� white noise cut off, before only Doradrassil�s voice came through.

�What do you know, Dora?� Mallory asked plainly.

�It�s not good,� Doradrassil answered. �As I said, I can�t be sure it was the same ship, but a team of Watchers did find the wreckage of a merchant ship today. It was charred to a crisp, and still burning…with fel fire. And…so were the bodies.�

A chill rushed over Mallory, and her stomach churned into a painful knot. She held a little tighter to the wooden post she was leaning against to keep her standing straight, and clenched her other gloved fist.

�Sabotage by a warlock then?� she asked, hopeful that it was that simple. But given the nature of the appointment she was waiting for, she couldn�t help suspecting a connection between the two.

�You could say that,� Doradrassil said with a sigh.

�There�s something you�re trying not to say,� Mallory said through gritted teeth. �That won�t make the news any easier, just get on with it.�

�…Mallory… I don’t know this for certain, but I think Gul�dan stowed away aboard the Pride.�

She nearly fell off the perch, but recovered and steadied herself, her world spinning. Gul�dan? He�s here? On this world? And what did he want with MY ship?!

�Why?� she finally spat, the faces of the merchants and families she knew flashing through her mind. Those children…

�Archmage Khadgar was here. He met with Maiev Shadowsong briefly. He thinks Gul�dan is headed for the Tomb of Sargeras to open a portal for the Legion there. They�ve tried that before. Maiev thinks otherwise.�

�Shadowsong is back? I thought she was a fugiti–�

�It�s complicated,� Doradrassil interrupted. �I�ll explain later. Look… All the artifacts and tools they could possibly use to open a portal that vast were taken from the Tomb long ago, and it�s locked up tight. The artifacts are in our custody, so Maiev has us guarding them. But I think there�s something to Khadgar�s theory. This Gul�dan doesn�t know our world. He doesn�t know the Tomb and wouldn�t know to go there. Someone�s guiding him. And the Legion would not send him on a fool�s errand. Which means…�

�Which means whoever cleaned up the Tomb missed something,� Mallory finished. �So our merchants were in the wrong place at the wrong time.�

�If it was them,� Doradrassil answered. �I hope it wasn�t… But yes. Someone was definitely in the wrong place, and the wrong time.�

�Shadowsage is going to flip when she finds out about this,� Mallory said with a shake of her head. �As if the timeways weren�t messed up enough already.� She sighed, a question gnawing at her that she wasn�t sure she was brave enough to ask. But it might tell her whether the ship was her missing vessel. Biting her lip, she finally asked, �Were there children?�

The question hung in the dead air for much too long. Then… �I�m very sorry, Mallory.�

Mallory lowered her head, whispering a prayer to Elune for the innocent, and clenched her fist again. �I�m starting to see why night elves join the Watchers and Wardens. I have the sudden urge to hunt Gul�dan to the ends of the universe.�

�Khadgar is hunting him now, and he saw the wreckage himself. I promise you, those people will be avenged.�

�Good,� Mallory murmured. �I… I�ve got a meeting in a few minutes with someone who might know something about this situation. As soon as I�m out, Daldrin and I will start contacting whatever families weren�t on board that boat. Thanks…for the information, Doradrassil.�

�I wish it was better news,� came Doradrassil�s reply.

�Yeah… Me too.�

Author Rann
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