Ringo Flinthammer and Widge Gearloose stepped out into the warm summer air, looking around with a bit of shock.
“This … is Mount Hyjal?” Ringo said, breathing in the smell of grass warmed by the sun, listening to the song of hundreds of grasshoppers.
“Yes,” Widge said, adjusting his goggles. “Hyjal Summit was warmed by the presence of the World Tree. The snows of Winterspring are far below us.”
Ringo glanced around at the newly built buildings around him. The Alliance worked fast when building forward bases during the war. Past the lumber mill he and Widge stood beside, he saw knights of Lordaeron checking their mounts’ armor and could hear the familiar sounds of dwarven riflemen preparing their weapons for battle.
“Not much time then, aye?”
“No,” Widge said, frowning. “Lady Jaina Proudmoore will call everyone to form up in a moment and then the word will come down that Rage Winterchill’s undead troops are on their way.”
“No time like the … well, whatever. Got to get to it, Ah reckon,” Ringo said, leading Widge around the corner.
“I’ll go stand guard by Jaina,” Widge said. “Take some readings.”
“Yer glasses see through her dress, don’t they?”
“I will not dignify that with a response,” Widge said, turning beet red, and stalking off.
Ringo stopped on the lumber mill steps, watching the purple-uniformed riflemen of Ironforge assemble their weapons, and just listened.
“This is me rifle,” they said in unison, reciting the Rifleman’s Creed in Dwarven as they worked. “There are many like it but this one is mine. Me rifle is me best friend. It is me life. I must master it as I master me life. Me rifle, without me is useless. Without me rifle, I am useless. I must fire me rifle true. I must shoot straighter than any enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. Aye, and I will.”
Ringo knew every word of it by heart: Ringo’s father had recited the creed every night, in lieu of a lullaby, when his sons were little.
“Me rifle and meself know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit.
“Me rifle is dwarven, even as I, because it is me life. Thus, I will learn it as me brother. I will learn its weakness, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep me rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will.”
Ringo picked out his father’s voice, but was unable to spot which purple hood was his.
“Ah’m looking for Magnus Flinthammer,” Ringo said quietly, wanting to hear the recitation.The other dwarf nodded silently, and pointed Ringo toward a campfire surrounded by dwarves.
Before Khaz’goroth, I swear this creed. Me rifle and meself are the defenders of me country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is Khaz Modan’s and there is no enemy, but peace.”
Sitting by the campfire, Magnus looked up.
“Ringo! What are ye doing here? And your leg is better already?”
“Aye, it’s me. Ah … just wanted to come see ye. Ah miss ye.”
Magnus got up from the fire, still carrying his gun, and the pair hiked up a small hill together.
“Putting together a wee bit of supplies. They needed us to go on patrol to a camp behind us; supplies aren’t getting through.”
The demons of Darkwhisper Gorge were waylaying supply caravans, Ringo knew. His parents would reopen the supply lines, but at the cost of their own lives.
“It’s good to see ye, lad, but the journey was rough on ye — ye look haggard.”
“Older, Pa. Remember those stories ye used to tell about the Caverns of Time? They’re true.”
Magnus stared, dumb-founded, a moment.
“From how far in the future?” he asked, finally.
“A few years. Ye have a grandson now: Bael. Good strong lad. He’s going to be a right terror when he’s grown.”
Magnus nodded, chuckling, but then got quiet.
“I’m not soft in the head, lad. Ye wouldn’t be traveling through time to talk to me if ye could just come visit me in Anvilmar.”
Ringo stammered; he hadn’t rehearsed this.
“It’s all right, lad,” Magnus said, cutting off Ringo’s sputtering response. “I don’t want to live forever. Just tell me: Is all this worth it?” He gestured toward Mount Hyjal and the World Tree.
Ringo thought about Arthas Menethil becoming the Lich King, the high elves joining the Horde, the rise of the Qiraji, Lord Kazzak reopening the Dark Portal and Kael’Thas Sunstrider’s attempts to bring the Burning Legion to Quel’Thalas. But the world would not have even survived to face such threats if it had not been for the doomed force of dwarves, men, elves, Tauren, orcs and trolls this day on Mount Hyjal.
“Aye, it’s worth it,” Ringo said quietly.
“That’s all that matters, then. Ye looking after yer little brother?”
Ringo groaned internally. All his brothers were still lost in Northrend, and in the quiet hours of the night, Ringo believed they were dead.
“Aye, the best Ah can.”
Magnus gave him a skeptical look, but said no more. The noise from the Alliance camp grew in volume and Widge came trudging up the hill, after the red-bearded dwarf pointed the way.
“There you are!” he said, shaking hands with Magnus. “Very nice to meet you, sir. Widge Gearloose, at your service. Your rams are ready. Ringo, we should go.”
Magnus dropped a hand on his son’s shoulder.
“Ye’ve grown up big and strapping, lad, and ye’ve given me a grandson. Look after yer brothers for me. Make me proud, like I know ye do.”
“Aye, sir,” Ringo said, as Widge began to cast a spell to open a portal back to Ironforge and the present. “Ah do me best to do that every day.”
Father and son saluted each other, and Magnus turned and went down the hill to meet his fate.
Widge climbed through the portal and as Ringo followed him, the red-bearded dwarf snapped to attention and saluted.
“Keep yer feet on the ground, Da,” he said with a wink, fading away even as he appeared to be saying more.
“Are you OK, Ringo?” Widge said, over the noise of gnome chatter that always filled the Hall of Mysteries.
“Is there some spell ye could cast to go back and see us on Mount Hyjal there just now?”
“No, not unless someone went through that passageway shortly after we just did,” Widge said. “Even the Bronze Dragonflight doesn’t have the magic to do that. Maybe some day, though.”
“Aye,” Ringo said. “Some day.”