Some days he was a paladin, bringing the power of the Titans to rampaging murlocs and kobolds surrounding town.
Other days, he was a mage, flinging frostbolts and accompanied by his trusty water elemental, mastering secrets far beyond those understood by his family or classmates.
But today, Bael Flinthammer was a dwarven rifleman, a mighty mountaineer like his father, Ringo, accompanied by the great black lion, Lucky, brought to Loch Modan as a cub from the Barrens of Kalimdor.
Bael crouched behind a bush, his rifle in one and and reaching the other back to Lucky, commanding him to hide in the shadow of a nearby tree, as he looked for the tracks of the enemy: Thelsamar was surrounded by them, including troggs and ogres.
No tracks here. Bael crept forward, pushing the bushes aside, like a real hunter would … probably. His father hadn’t had much of a chance to teach him this stuff before he’d left to find a cure for the king — the real king, not the Council of the Three Hammers. But he’d be back soon, and then he and Bael would be best buddies, and he’d teach his son all about tracking animals and stalking the enemies of Khaz Modan in the hills surrounding Loch Modan.
But for now …
Bael stalked onward, using his other senses: murlocs stunk, as did ogres, and both troggs and kobolds tended toward noisiness. There were voices ahead.
“My dad is taking us to see Greatfather Winter in Ironforge and then we’re going to visit my Oma and Opa in Kharanos,” said a young dwarf boy’s voice.
“We did that last year,” replied a girl’s voice. “My mommy says she wants to go some place warm. She has a surprise trip in mind for us. I bet she’s taking us to Booty Bay.”
“I wrote a letter to Greatfather Winter,” a little girl said. “My daddy said I needed to ask him for toys for the kids who aren’t getting …”
“Stop!” the first girl interjected. “Something’s up there in a bush. Is it a — oh, wait, it’s just Bael Flinthammer.”
Bael straightened up, still clutching his rifle.
“Howdy.” Behind him, Lucky nudged his elbow, the lion’s stomach rumbling loudly.
“Hi, Bael,” the first girl — who attended school with Bael, although she was a few grades ahead of him; Helga Gemfinder, he thought — said with sugary sweetness. “Are you celebrating the Feast of Winter Veil this year?”
Bael was confused. They had a tree at home. It wasn’t as grand as the one at the Stoutlager Inn, but it was nice. He had decorated it with a bunch of his father’s old shell casings, hung on a line, and his mother would light the candles adorning it a few hours before bedtime each night, and he’d fall asleep to its glow.
“Aye. Ah wrote a letter tae Greatfather Winter, as well.”
“Asking for the army to send your dad home to be buried?”
Helga looked a little sheepish, as did the other kids, who all seemed to understand what she was talking about. She stuck out her chin and continued on.
“Bael, your dad is dead. Everyone says so. He went off after the Cataclysm and no one has seen him since.”
“Nay. Nay!” Bael felt his temples pound and his heart racing. His teacher, Ms. Glittersnow, had warned him that when he felt his temper rising, that he needed to take deep breaths and calm down and he struggled to remain in control. “Me daddy is a soldier. He and me mom fought the bug war. They fought in Kwel, in Kel, they fought th’ elves! And then he fought the Lick King! And he was tryin’ tae help King Magni …”
“King Magni is dead,” Helga said, her tone no longer so sweet.
“We got a letter — he’s in Kalimdor, fighting the Horde!”
“But you won’t see him for Winter’s Veil,” one of the boys, Nils Copperforge, said, a little more kindly.
“Nay — NAY,” Bael insisted. “He’ll be home for Winter Veil. The war’s over. Ah reckon he’s on his way now!”
Helga snorted. Lucky snarled. And Bael turned and raced home, his eyes burning and not wanting these merchants‘ kids to see him cry.
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