The Northspear’s gangplank dropped heavily on the Valgarde dock. The dwarves and men crowding the dock waiting for the ship stepped back in surprise when the roar issued from on deck. The series of gunshots fired off a moment later sent some of them running for cover.
“Stop yer grinnin’ and drop yer linen! Let me at th’ Lich King!”
Ringo Flinthammer rode down onto the gangplank on the back of his great white bear, Frostmaw, the stowaway murloc child seated on the bear’s neck, Ringo shooting off his rifle as he came. Behind him followed his wife Beli, rolling her eyes.
“Ringo Flinthammer!” a dwarf on the dock snarled. “Ye slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindler. Ye’ve got a lot of guts comin’ here, stinkin’ up the place.”
Ringo snorted, leaning his gun against his shoulder.
“Shut yer gob, ya stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking ram-herder.”
Ringo snarled and leapt from the bear’s back, tackling the other dwarf. They rolled around on the dock, bouncing off the wood and onto the dark muddy shore, fists and feet flying.
From under the dock, a shirtless and filthy dwarf leapt on the pair of them.
“No one expects Th’ Flinthammer Boys!” the newcomer roared, attacking both of them.
“Do you want me to separate them?” Widge Gearloose asked Beli. “I could sheep one of them.”
“Nay,” Beli sighed. “That’s their way of saying hello. Boys …”
Sure enough, Ringo and Ely Flinthammer now sat back in the mud, roaring with laughter. They embraced, pounding each others’ backs in the only way that dwarf men are allowed to hug — anything more, they fear, and some might suggest they are actually gnomosexuals.
The trio staggered back up to the dock, covered in black mud.
“Mordun, Ely did no’ mention ye were alive and here as well!” Ringo said, hooking an arm around his older brother’s neck. “You don’t half smell, though!”
“It wouldn’t be a surprise then, would it?” Mordun grinned. “Durkon and Bragh are OK as well. They’re off in the Dragonblight, single-handedly taking on the Lich King, according to Durkon. Them lights in the sky at night, me and Ely call them Durkon’s Halo. I expect he will use his giant head to smash down th’ Wrath Gate of Icecrown Citadel any day now.”
The trio roared with laughter.
“Ye both remember Beli, don’t ye?”
“Oh, aye. I never figured her to be so charitable as to stay with ye all these years. Did ye have her chained to somethin’?” Ely grinned, ducking his head as his older brother smacked it. “Good to see ye. I’d hug ye, but ye know.”
“Hello, Ely, Mordun. Is there some place we can have a drink and maybe clean you lot off?”
“Oh, aye. We’ve got an inn. Strand dwarves somewhere and first thing we do, we build a tavern, eh?” Mordun elbowed a bemused Voca Lodestone in the ribs as they disembarked and headed into Valgarde. “We never got around to building much more, really. We expected the Alliance to come pick us up any day now.”
“We’ve been busy,” Ringo said sourly. “No sooner does the Third War end than Gnomeregan falls, troggs attack Khaz Modan, trolls and Dark Irons slip across the border, the Scourge attack across the Eastern Kingdoms, the Qiraji rise in Silithus, the Dark Portal is reopened, Kael’thas Sunstrider sells out to the Horde and then Illidan and then the Burning Legion …”
“The Third War is over?” Ely blinked. “Glorenfeld said ye were a famous elf-killer …”
“We have a lot of catching up to do,” Ringo said, clapping his younger brother on the shoulder. “We’re going to need beer. Lots and lots o’ beer.”
“Can I ask,” Mordun said, following, “What’s up with th’ bear and th’ saddle and th’ goggles?”
“We were at sea a really long time,” Ringo sighed. “Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on.”