It had been more than six years since Ringo Flinthammer had descended into the depths of Old Ironforge, down steps that had been carved by some of the first dwarves to awaken in the Eastern Kingdoms, transformed during their long sleep from the Earthen the Titans had originally created them as.
The passage down still filled him with hushed awe, despite all that he had seen and done since that time. He felt the unseen eyes of all the kings of Ironforge upon him, and knew that they found him wanting.
There, on a platform suspended over the fiery heart of Ironforge Mountain, was the last king of Ironforge, the one whom Ringo imagined must be most disappointed in him.
“Ah have failed ye, me king,” Ringo said, pulling off his green mountaineer’s hood and falling to one knee.
The diamond form of Magni Bronzebeard stood above him, arms outstretched, unmoving since the day he’d read the invocation off the tablets brought back from Ulduar in an attempt to stop the elemental invasion of Khaz Modan.
“Ah have sought th’ aid o’ th’ Earthen Ring, consulted with th’ Earthen o’ Deepholm and even the tol’vir in Uldum. Ain’t none o’ them know how ta turn ye back ta flesh, which Ah swore ta find out.”
“Mountaineer,” a gentle voice interjected from a shadowy corner of the room, “Who said this was your responsibility?”
A white-haired dwarf leaning on a staff stepped into the warm orange light that lit Magni’s final resting place.
“I should’ve broken those damn tablets the day they were brought to me, mountaineer, but I didn’t. We might still have our king’s wisdom to guide us through these perilous times.” Advisor Belgrum looked sadly on the face of his king. “King Magni’s fate is my responsibility and my shame. I should’ve counseled patience instead of encouraging him! His rush to complete the ritual without understanding it cost him his life and availed us nothing.
“This was my fault, my lord,” he said, addressing Magni directly. “I should’ve done more research on those tablets.”
“Is he dead, then?” Ringo asked in a near-whisper, as though saying the words out loud would condemn his king to death. “Ah reckoned he were but sleepin’, trapped inside this diamond. Ah wanted ta have some Earthen Ring shaman come talk ta him and see.”
“We have already done so. It was one of the first things Falstad Wildhammer did, once order was restored to the city. The shaman could get no answer from Magni. He’s either dead or beyond the reach of any mortal shaman.”
Ringo climbed to his feet, wiping the back of his hand across his face, having gotten a bit of ash in one eye.
“This ain’t over, by Khaz’goroth.”
“Ah still stand. Ironforge still stands. The dwarves still have guns an’ axes and strong arms ta spare. The Titans themselves made us caretakers o’ this world and there ain’t nothin’ that Deathwing can’t do that we cannae fix.”
“Other than Deathwing himself, or the Old Gods, the only ones who might know how to recreate the Curse of Flesh to restore our king would be Cho’gall’s closest advisors, in the Bastion of Twilight, but …”
“Right,” Ringo said, pulling back on his hood. “Then Ah reckon that’s me next stop.”