Torches flickered and the thump of boots echoed through the hallway as Commander Drexus Zoldac of the Watch Guard strode down the corridor toward the war room, followed by his soldiers. Castle guards and servants flattened themselves against the wall, their expressions a mixture of fear and grief. Hours before, the people of Pandaren had celebrated their victory in the war against the Vastanes. Cheers of celebration, though, became wails of sorrow as the palace and the city of Orilyon crumbled into chaos.
“How did he get in?” Drexus asked.
“We’re still working on that, Commander Zoldac.”
Drexus stopped and slowly turned toward the guard, who glanced up at him and winced. “Work faster,” he warned.
The guard swallowed, nodding.
Drexus continued down the corridor, clenching his jaw, trying to rein in his anger. Two soldiers saluted as he pushed open the heavy wooden doors into a room buzzing with activity. Council members argued near the fireplace and his generals surrounded a large oval table studying a map of Pandaren. They stood to attention, saluting as Drexus approached. Kenneth Brenet, head advisor to the king, sat in a corner holding his head.
One of the council members hurried over. “Is it true? Is King Valeri dead?”
“It’s true,” Drexus said. He ignored the questions yelled at him and walked across the room to put a hand on Kenneth’s bony shoulder. “They need you, now more than ever.”
Kenneth nodded, set his shoulders, and approached the center of the room. Drexus stood at his side, arms crossed.
“Attention, please,” Kenneth said, silencing the room. “As many of you suspect, the king is dead, murdered in his study this evening.”
Murmurs filled the room.
“How?” someone called out.
Kenneth looked up at Drexus, who inhaled, resting his sizable hands on the table as he regarded each council member, noble, and general. “An Air Spectral killed King Valeri.”
Gasps and shouts of anger reverberated off the stone walls.
“I thought the Spectrals were on our side,” one of the council members said.
Drexus fisted his hands. “So did we.”
“What do we know about the Spectrals?” Kenneth asked.
General Charlys stepped forward, her eyes darting to Drexus. “There are two main types of magic, physical and mental. A Spectral with physical magic can either control an element or is an Amp.”
“What are Amps?” one of the nobles asked, nearing the table.
“Amps, or Amplifiers, have unnatural speed and strength,” the general said. “The Mentals are a little trickier, but we’ve determined there are five types: Shields, Healers, Vaulters, Trackers, and Psyches.”
“Psyches?” Kenneth looked from the general to Drexus.
“They can move objects with their minds,” Drexus said.
“How do you have this information?”
“When the Spectrals joined forces with the Watch Guard, I assigned General Charlys to obtain as much information about them as possible, just in case.”
“With that kind of power?” a councilman said. “How are we going to defend ourselves? Naturals can’t fight against magic.”
Drexus’s eye twitched at the whine in the man’s voice. “I’m currently working on something that will neutralize their power. But first, we need strong leadership. I think Kenneth Brenet should rule as steward until the council deems it unnecessary.”
The murmurings grew, and a few council members’ faces turned red.
“What about Queen Valeri?” one of them asked.
Drexus refrained from rolling his eyes. “She’s grieving the loss of her husband, and with her diminished health, we cannot expect her to take the throne.” He sensed a shift in the room as men and women nodded their heads—a shift in his favor. “Who supports Kenneth Brenet becoming steward of Pandaren?”
Hands raised, and Drexus smiled.
Kenneth stared at the men and women surrounding the war table. “This is an honor. I can never measure up to our great king, but I will do my best. And my first act as steward is to put into law that all Spectrals will identify themselves and their powers. We have to know who they are and what they can do.”
The room bristled with fear.
“All in favor?” Drexus said.
The motion passed unanimously.
Kenneth turned to Drexus. “Whatever you’re working on, get it completed as soon as possible. In the meantime, our priority is to defend the kingdom.”
Drexus led Kenneth away from the table. “Do I have your support to do whatever is necessary?” he asked.
The thin man stared up at him with wary eyes and nodded.
Drexus kept his expression blank.
“I’d like permission to create an elite group of soldiers specifically trained to fight the Spectrals.”
“What do you propose?”
“Hunters.” Drexus glanced over his shoulder, savoring the warmth of victory radiating through him. “Lethal assassins who will ensure the Spectrals comply with our new laws.”
The steward held Drexus’s gaze.
“Fortify our army, Drexus. And train your assassins. Create a force that will breed fear by the very mention of their name.”