Ringo was on the last chorus of “Good King Bronzebeard” when the draenei joined in.
“In his master’s steps he trod,
Towards the goodly numbers;
Poison on his daggers went
So they dripped and glittered.
Therefore, Dwarven folk, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will save the wee,
Shall yourselves find blessing.”
With that, Ringo drained his mug, blew the foam from his whiskers with appreciation and sat down at the long table in the forest.
“There’s no snow here on Azuremyst, but this is a proper Feast of Winter’s Veil, right enough,” he grinned, slapping a draenei next to him on the shoulder. “Still, it’s hard to wrap my head around you lot celebrating the coming of Greatfather Winter a world away with the Wildhammers.”
“Well, surely you don’t actually believe in Greatfather Winter, do you?” asked an oddly lovely draenei woman across the table.
Beli dropped her cutlery onto her plate with a clatter. The guests all fell silent.
“Do we ‘believe’ that the Titans shaped this world, we who were formed by the hand of Khaz’goroth the Vanir himself? Darn tootin’ I do!” She rose unsteadily to her feet, pointing a weaving finger at the draenei who spoke. “Do I believe the Aesir Titans crafted the wind and the clouds and the weather? You bet yer blue arse!”
“I knew I should have cut her off after two mugs,” Ringo muttered into his beard.
“No offense,” the draenei said, whom Ringo now recognized as Master Sergeant Thelaana. “It’s just my friends all say …”
But Beli was on a roll now.
“Thelaana, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Thelaana, whether they be dwarves’ or draeneis’, are little. In this great universe of ours, draeneikind is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless universe about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
“Yes, Thelaana, there is a Greatfather Winter. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be Azeroth if there were no Greatfather Winter! It would be as dreary as if there were no Thelaanas. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
“Not believe in Greatfather Winter! You might as well not believe in gnomes! You might get yer pa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Winter’s Veil Eve to catch Greatfather Winter, but even if they did not see Greatfather Winter coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Greatfather Winter, but that is no sign that there is no Greatfather Winter. The most real things in the world are those that neither dwarves nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest dwarf, nor even the united strength of all the strongest dwarves that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Thelaana, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Greatfather Winter! Thank the Light! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
“Yes, Thelaana, there is a Greatfather Winter!”
It was at this point that Beli, with her finger pointed straight up at the heavens, tipped slowly backward, like a tree felled by an axe, collapsed onto the soft blue grass, and began to snore.
“Is there any more roasted Moongraze tenderloin, then?” Ringo asked, after a moment.
Before he could get his answer, though, there was a commotion at the edge of camp, and a knot of draenei all but fell off their panting elekk mounts.
They stumbled into camp, breathless. Several of them openly stared at the dwarves among them, speaking hurriedly in their own language. Those at the feast slowly rose to their feet, their expressions changing from confusion to joy and back to confusion. Finally, Ganaar turned to Ringo and spoke in his thickly accented Common.
“The Exodar has been righted. It may not travel again, but the prophet is calling us to use it at our permanent settlement here on Azeroth,” he said, then paused. “These ‘night elves’ you spoke of … a group of purple-skinned elves just surrendered to a patrol of soldiers from the Exodar. They say they are ambassadors from the Alliance. They also mentioned your presence on Azuremyst, and the prophet wishes to have you brought before him as well.”