Disclaimer: Don't own WoW. A few OCs, but most characters belong to Blizzard.
A/N: The romance is slow-building. Like, REALLY slow building. Just warning you.
This will be in two parts. As another disclaimer, I will let you know - I am not familiar with the WoWverse books or comics, so this will not be following that canon, certain events will be following the in-game canon instead. Heck, it'll barely be following canon at all - very early on it splits into an AU. What lore I could look up was very vague, too, so I may get some facts completely and utterly wrong because I had to guess, or couldn't find the information for until I'd already written it. I'm sorry for that in advance and hope the story makes up for the lore fail.
WARNINGS: Story contains triggers such as mentions of rape and victim-blaming (yay dragons), squick, homosexuality (I hate warning for that but I know people will complain if I don't), and... a lot of other stuff I can't remember.
Up until the point a five-year-old punched Varian Wrynn in the face, Bolvar Fordragon thought he'd be in for a quiet afternoon.
He'd intended for the hours to be spent lazing about in the emerald grass surrounded by beautiful flowered bushes, a book in one hand and a waterskin of half-frozen water, provided by a kindly court mage, in the other. He'd keep himself entertained as Varian and the blonde boy by his side hovered around the nearby pond, their soft voices drifting in the still summer air. The large pond had been put there only two weeks before, dotted with plants and already attracting the wildlife. Birds Bolvar had never seen before sometimes swam in there now, and in the safety of the nearby reeds, hidden from their view, scales shimmered. The goldfish, he'd been assured, would grow to be huge in there with all that space. The fish in the bowls and tanks around the palace didn't grow very big in their confines, but in the pond they had freedom that none of the fish in the court would ever know.
The blonde boy beside Varian stirred the water with a long stick as Bolvar returned to his book. Franklin Windsor would arrive soon to relieve him - they were far away from orcish danger here and the garden walls were high, but it would never do to leave the royals unsupervised. Bolvar was hardly bodyguard material - but the blonde's father was satisfied as long as someone had an eye out, so confident he was in his own security. For now, Bolvar lost himself in his book until the sounds around him faded away.
Of course, it didn't last, and as it turned out, the King hadn't reckoned on a certain little urchin from the kitchens assaulting his son. The tranquility of the afternoon shattered when the five-year-old appeared from whatever dark hole she'd crawled out of and lunged at Varian with a balled fist at the ready. And never let it be said Varian backed away from a challenge.
Bolvar had been so engrossed in his book he hadn't heard the taunts that triggered it, or the sneers and shouts. The blonde started it, of course. The blonde always started it. Varian was dark and broody and never spoke unless spoken to, but if triggered, his rage was surpassed only by a girl rumoured to skulk around the palace kitchens - and much according to Bolvar's excellent luck, it was that girl who decided to sock the Wrynn in the face when he stepped in to defend the blonde.
"Hey!" Bolvar called out. "Stop that!"
The King would kill him for merely sitting there and yelling at them whilst Varian was getting hurt. Bolvar hissed and left his book open on the grass, pages flickering in the faint breeze that stirred as he stormed over. The five-year-old girl was all nails and flurried hair as she attacked Varian, and Varian was giving as good as he got. His legs swiped at her ankles, sending her to the ground, but immediately sharp teeth latched onto his leg. Varian yelled.
"Arthas!" Bolvar barked at the blonde boy. "Get her off!" He wrapped his arms around Varian - but the girl rushed to her feet and surged towards the newcomer. Before he knew it, Bolvar was on his back, blinking up at the clouds, winded and cradling his stomach.
"Whoa, you should've seen her knock you down!" came Arthas' voice. "No way am I touching that. I'll let you take care of it. Hey, Varian, punch her in the - aww, yeah!"
Did - did that really just happen? Did he just get tackled by a five-year-old?
Growling, he swung onto his haunches and sprung. The girl, who'd been sitting on Varian's chest pummelling his face, was no match for his own strength - he might be scrawny for a thirteen-year-old, but Bolvar still had the advantage of age, for what little it had done moments before. She'd only gotten the better of him because he hadn't expected it. He physically pried her from the young Varian and pulled her to her feet.
"What the hell were you thinking?" he barked.
Sadly, his voice was still high pitched and not yet intimidating, and it showed. The girl didn't back down - she writhed and hissed in his arms, and it was all he could do to keep a firm grip on her. He yanked her into his arms, pinning her own to her sides in a lock. Arthas Menethil watched them quietly as Varian clambered to his feet, scratches on his face beading with red as the young prince plugged his nose.
"She's good," said Varian, a note of admiration in his tone. In spite of his injuries, he didn't seem worse for wear, and seemed - entertained?
"What is the meaning of this?" Bolvar hissed. Varian's expression didn't change, but Arthas began to look sheepish.
"She's a wild thing," said Varian, without smiling. He stared at the girl with the hollowness in his eyes that had remained since Stormwind. Varian - Bolvar had only a year on him, in spite of acting as his babysitter, and could very well remember that the boy had been so much different before his father died. "Can't you see that?" He tilted his head, eyes not quite focusing. "She's a freak. Reminds me of those orcs. I swear they raised her. They say they did, you know."
Arthas's face twisted. "Uhh, you better not go around repeating that, Father would… well…" He cast the girl a guilty look. Not genuine guilt, of course - more like the guilt one got when one realised one was about to be caught.
The girl barked out some gibberish, snarling at Varian. To Bolvar's relief, she was beginning to tire, her struggles still futile. She snapped another made-up word and sagged in his arms. Bolvar looked down at the girl in astonishment. "You can't - " right. Discipline. Was he allowed to tell princes off? Screw it. "You can't just attack a five-year-old!" he said, looking up at Varian. "You're more than twice her age!"
"Seven," the girl snarled, and began to writhe again to no avail. She was still weak. Still tiring. This didn't stop her hissing like a drenched cat, however.
"What?" said Bolvar.
"You're tiny," said Bolvar.
"I'll tiny you!" the girl screeched. Arthas' hands rose gingerly to his ears.
"That's Kat," said Arthas. "She's a brat. Kat the brat. Nobody likes her."
"Says the pompous - "
Bolvar clamped a hand over the girl's mouth. Varian was hurt, and Bolvar had no idea what to do aside from get the girl to shut up and avoid making things worse. The blood! What the - what the hell did they expect Bolvar to do, anyway? He didn't expect to be playing more than babysitter to the twelve-year-old prince! If someone had really attacked the children, they'd be mincemeat by now. Varian didn't seem to care for the blood that dripped down his face, but Terenas would have Bolvar's head if it had been Arthas who'd been hurt instead.
"What's going on here?"
Oh, thank the Light. Bolvar risked turning his head to see Franklin, three years Bolvar's senior and guard-in-training, striding over. "Hell if I know," Bolvar grunted. "They were fighting - ow! You little horror!"
"Kat" had sunk teeth far too sharp to belong to a seven-year-old into Bolvar's palm. Franklin winced, but ignored Bolvar's pain in favour of heading straight for Prince Varian. He seemed unfazed by Kat's ferocity. "Let's get you to the kitchens," he said. "I'll take care of this from here, Bolvar. You get her cleaned up, but keep her away from the kitchens." He eyed the struggling girl. Varian watched with impassivity.
Now, Kat's movements were nothing. Young children only had so much energy, after all. Franklin stepped closer to Bolvar, and murmured, "You didn't hear it from me, but that's Lord Prestor's girl. You may want to be careful."
"Lord Prestor has a daughter?" said Bolvar. "Since when?"
"Since I was born, you thick imbecile," Kat spat. "What, were you born as stupid as everyone else around here, with a skull as dense as thorium - !"
"Does she always talk like that?" Bolvar said quickly.
"Yup," said Franklin. "Is your hand alright?"
"I think it's gone numb…"
"She is psycho," said Arthas flatly.
"Alright, enough from you," Franklin flicked Arthas' forehead, making the boy blink. "Come on, let's get Varian cleaned up. You shouldn't be egging him on."
The blonde boy trotted after the guard-in-training like a faithful little dog, with Varian lagging behind wearing a scowl. "It was insane!" Arthas exclaimed. "She just flew at him, didn't she, Varian?"
Damned Franklin Windsor - he had a way with the two boys Bolvar could never hope to have. Bolvar always preferred his books to talking to them, and was treated as a lot older than he was. Varian was only a year younger than him, after all, and Bolvar was practically baby sitting him. Chuck in Franklin, though, and it was as if Franklin was the younger boy here. Bolvar grunted, finally letting Kat go.
She almost ran for it. Almost. But Bolvar was quicker, seizing her wrist. "Don't even think about struggling," he said. "Let's get you cleaned up."
Little Kat hissed at him. Finally, he got a good look at her injuries - a couple of scratches on her face from Varian's nails, but nothing serious. Still, no noble wanted his baby girl beaten up, even if she was the one who lunged first. "Your father is going to be furious."
That got through to her. He'd never seen a girl go so white before, go so still, so quickly. "So," said Bolvar conversationally, relenting out of pity. The girl must be terrified of her father - good to see some parents didn't pamper their royal brats. "You better come with me and get cleaned up, don't you think?"
He glanced away to where his book lay abandoned on the grass. Curse it - he'd have to come back and get it, he wasn't about to let go of Kat's wrist or he'd never see her again. Sighing, Bolvar led her away through the gardens and into the courtyard, and then at last into the palace.
Contrasted with the warm summer outside, the stone walls held in the cool of the still-lingering winter. The snow had melted long ago, but the palace's walls clung to the cold almost unnaturally, seeming to hold it in all for itself until summer would pry it from its grasp. Lordaeron became nowhere near as hot in the summer as Stormwind did, though, and Bolvar missed the heat. It didn't snow in Stormwind. Too far south. That didn't stop it getting cold, though. He wondered what Stormwind was like right now. Teeming with orcs, more than likely. Or had it been abandoned and left ruined?
As Bolvar lost himself in his thoughts and memories, the girl trotted beside him, an unreadable expression on her face. Finally, he remembered her when he almost let go of her wrist absently. He'd seen her sometimes before, never met her. He knew of Kat - "Kat of the kitchens", "feral Kat", all kinds of nicknames given to the girl who skulked around the servants as if she wasn't a noble daughter who'd grow up to become - Light forbid - a Lady.
Fancy being Prestor's daughter. Who knew he'd even been married once? Did Calia know? Bolvar wasn't sure how Franklin did. Calia was barely of adulthood but already making eyes at Lord Prestor, and there were rumours of a possible arrangement coming up. Perhaps Kat was misbehaving so much because she didn't fancy her mother being replaced. Or, worse still, becoming stepniece of the dreaded Arthas Menethil, who seemed to have been the one to provoke the girl in the first place. Had he been bullying her, he wondered?
"So," said Bolvar casually. "What do you think of Calia?"
"She can swallow her tiara and asphyxiate on it, as far as I'm concerned."
"We're not all imbeciles with low intelligence," remarked the child. "I see you have an incredibly lacking vocabulary."
"Right," said Bolvar. "Do you read the dictionary as a hobby? Aren't you a little young to know words bigger than five letters?"
"Of course not, dunderhead."
The residential wing of the palace was empty at this time of day, thankfully, aside from the occasional stray fetching something from their rooms. Bolvar fished an old key from his pocket with his spare hand and twisted it in the lock, allowing the door to fall open. "Right," he said, gently placing the girl in a chair once inside. The dark-haired girl looked around quietly. "Is Arthas bothering you?"
"That blonde brat," Kat stated, "homed in on me in the gardens and attempted to provoke me into a fight, going on and on about how as his future niece I should obey him and tried to humiliate me into ingesting dirt." She stared at Bolvar without blinking. He tried not to squirm. "As the saying goes, 'he started it.' He wanted a fight, and he got one. Wrynn decided to get in the way. Once I was done with him, I was going to tear Menethil's eyes out. Do not punish me if your children are so weak they cannot defend themselves against someone half their size."
"You don't attack anyone," said Bolvar. "Ever. I don't care what fools they are to you. Tell an adult if they give you grief."
Kat sneered. "Oh yes, tell an adult like a coward! I can fight my own battles, weakling. They're not the invincible white-knights they think they are." She snorted. "My father would have nothing to do with me if I couldn't take care of…" her expression changed. "By the Titans, he's…"
Bolvar watched as the girl shook her head. Both hands rose to massage her temples with the heels of her fist. Plump lips moved silently. Bolvar pulled out a chair and straddled it with his arms around the back, leaning closer on two legs. He barely caught her whispers. "… Control," she mumbled. "Not a… not a child, can't…" She grit her jaw and shook her head as if something were stuck in her ears.
He realised he felt sorry for her. A girl who had so little trust in adults that she couldn't tell someone when she was being bullied, to the point she snapped. She was - she was filled with so much rage. And highly intelligent. That much was obvious. What was going on for her that she acted this way? You must feel sorry for the orcs, a soft female voice said in Bolvar's head, that they feel they must hurt others to make themselves feel better. Why is that, I wonder? What do they do to each other they take their anger out on us?
"You are only seven," Bolvar said softly. "No matter what nobles expect of their children - I'm no noble, believe me, I'm only living with them because of my parents - you're not an adult. You're a child. You don't have to deal with this all on your own. Your father has unreasonable expectations if he thinks you should put up with all that taunting." He stood up. "I know Arthas can be - well. He can be a bully, to put it lightly. Now wait here, I'll get something to clean you up."
When he returned, Kat stared at the grain in the table. He set a small box there, and retrieved a vial and some cloth. "Just something to clean your cuts," he said. "It'll sting a bit."
She didn't even flinch as he dabbed her face. The bleeding had stopped and some of the blood had began to dry, but all of it was cleaned up easily. "There we go," the boy said, closing the box. He looked at the girl, whose eyes hadn't risen the entire time. "Are you alright?" he said softly.
The girl looked up at him. He'd never seen a child her age look like that before. There was something odd about her - grown up, wise beyond her years, in spite of her actions before. "My father is coming," she said.
There was a knock on the door.
"He knows when things like…" her face screwed up and she shook her head rapidly again. "Do not speak of my…" She hissed, eyes closing tight. "No, I am not a coward!"
Casting the half-mad girl one last sympathetic look, he rose to answer the door. He was only half surprised when the handsome man on the other side smiled at him.
There was something about Lord Prestor everyone loved. He was young - he must have been married and had Katrana as soon as he'd been of age. He had no lines in his face and always wore a smile. People smiled back, looking at him. Even Genn Greymane, Bolvar had heard, and he was the king of grump. "Lord Prestor," said Bolvar. He bowed, opening the door. "You heard Katrana was here?"
"Indeed I did," said Lord Prestor, stepping inside. "This is a tidy place you have," he said. "Do forgive me - I have heard of your parents' deeds, but never met you in person yet, Master Fordragon. My condolences. They died heroes. You must be proud."
Bolvar pressed his lips into a thin line. "Yes, my Lord," he said. "Thank you."
Lord Prestor turned his gaze on the girl in the chair. She rose, back straight, looking her father in the eyes calmly. "You are a strong girl," he remarked, faint disapproval not absent in his tone. "I see you cleaned yourself up."
Was it Bolvar, or did her face turn a shade paler? She did not answer. Bolvar decided not to correct the man.
"Do accept my most sincere apologies for this incident with my daughter," said Prestor, turning to look at Bolvar again. There was something in his features that wasn't as friendly as before, but only slightly, and Bolvar wondered what kind of relationship the man had with his daughter that she was so… screwed up. "When I heard of what happened, I came as quickly as I could. Katrana, I hope you haven't been giving Master Fordragon any difficulties."
Katrana didn't answer, except to tilt her head slightly in acknowledgement with hard eyes.
"She's very eager for her…" Bolvar chose his words carefully. "Independence," he finished lamely. "She fights battles no child her age should." Was it him, or did Kat's eyes narrow slightly when turned on him?
Prestor sighed. "Ever since her mother died she has been… difficult. Katrana, come here."
Kat obliged, but did not look at her father, avoiding his eyes when Lord Prestor lifted her chin and inspected her face. He did not seem very worried about the wounds on his daughter's face. "I have told you time and time again that you are to behave while we are guests of King Terenas. Attacking his son and the prince of Stormwind is not a way to make yourself welcome. Do you understand?"
Kat's expression didn't change, but her fist clenched. Bolvar said cautiously, "They provoked her, my Lord."
Prestor didn't look at him. "And that is never an excuse to lose control to one's rage," he said smoothly. "If one cannot control oneself as a child, one will not control oneself as an adult." Kat sneered. "See?" said Prestor. "You are an open book, my daughter. Control yourself."
"Yes Father," said Kat icily.
"Good," Prestor's smile returned. "You will be punished, of course, restricted to your quarters for a day with no entertainment. I will have your meals delivered." Kat's face sharpened into a scowl, which faded at a dark look from her father. The menacing stare faded as Prestor once again turned a sunny smile on Bolvar. "Thank you, Master Fordragon, for taking care of her. Though I would appreciate…" He paused for a moment, before continuing. "Katrana is not well-known amidst the palace. As you understand, politics can be a… dangerous occupation, especially in this time of orc assassins and unrest down south. I would not wish any harm upon my daughter as a result of her connection to me. Do you understand?"
Ah. It wasn't like a noble to say that other people wanted to kill them, and were willing to resort to. That was strange. Bolvar nodded. "Of course, your Lordship. But I might warn you - one of the guards knew. And if he knew, it's probably…" he trailed off. "Franklin Windsor," he said helpfully. "It was him who told me who Kat was."
Had Arthas snitched? Bolvar could remember Varian's remarks on Kat's parentage, and the look on Arthas' face - he had to know. Lord Prestor wouldn't enjoy being compared to orcs, surely.
Lord Prestor frowned. "I see," he mused. "I will have to have a word with him. Come, Katrana, we will impose on Master Fordragon no longer."
Outside, Daval Prestor inspected his surroundings. Only empty halls greeted his eyes, and he gestured to the small child beside him as he slowly began to walk, taking his time along the corridor. When he spoke, he did not speak in Common. "As today has no doubt enlightened you, the human body in its various stages of life has its own needs and emotions. A human body is hard to control." He tucked a stray lock of dark hair behind his ear, smile gone, face severe. "It has its own mind. It will attempt to take over your draconic essence if you allow it."
He looked down at the child beside him. "You are here as a child to learn about human culture, not to embarrass and foil me. It is frowned upon to physically deal with your enemies, especially children of highly powerful humans. Your ignorance of human culture will be forgiven easily because of your believed age. I will not permit you to choose an age of your own until you know enough about human culture and have enough control over your body to not humiliate us all."
"I understand, Father," said the child. Her chin was lifted high, her eyes fierce, but the hostility was gone - suppressed. "The human takes pity on me. Weakling." She snorted. "Fancy not knowing what asphyxiate means, he cannot speak his own language to save his life. It will not happen again."
"You are not a child," continued Daval Prestor. "But you are in the body of a human child, and so it will attempt to have you act as one. You are thousands of years old, you have no excuse to allow - "
"Do not speak to me as if I'm some whelp! I am an adult and you will treat me like one!"
"And this is exactly what I mean, Onyxia," said Prestor, glaring down at her, eyes flashing dangerously. Fear showed on the child's face, before it vanished. "You are stronger than this, you pathetic whelp. If the Purging had existed when you were hatched, you would have died as you deserve. Romathis mastered a human's body within weeks. We've been here months, and still you allow the human body's emotions to override your discipline - whatever there is of it." He sneered. "For now, you will go to the kitchens and continue your eavesdropping. We must keep an ear cocked for danger. Later, you will be punished. Severely. The skin of a human child is very sensitive, as you may have found out…"
This time, the child didn't flinch. "Yes, Father."