Sergeant Widge Gearloose wiped the seawater from his goggles as he ducked his head back down. The group had worked hard to get their makeshift raft to look merely like a chunk of shipwreck debris, but any Iron Horde mariners wouldn’t be fooled if they saw a gnome head peeking out from between the planks.
“Land is in sight. We’ve been heading south so it’s Shadowmoon Valley, I guess. It’s hard to tell, really.”
The dwarves — Knight-Captain Ringo Flinthammer and Baelan Grimaxe — muttered dourly. Whatever this place was, it wasn’t the Outland they’d been expecting. While neither objected to fighting orcs, where they were, when they were and how they might one day get back home nagged at them.
“Almost the Feast o’ Winter Veil, too,” Ringo muttered, thumping his skull back against the sodden wood. “Ah’m the worst father e’er.”
“Cheer up,” the fourth refugee in their raft said, the gnome Vamen D’barr.
“First, if we are in a different time, no time might have passed at all back on Azeroth. Or, you know, maybe thousands of years have passed and everyone we know is already dead. Either way, not much point in worrying about it.”
“Thank ye, that’s very comforting,” Ringo growled.
They had spent the last two weeks ducking and hiding in the jungle that occupied the place where the Hellfire Peninsula should have been. The pitched battle against the Alliance and Horde had died down almost immediately, but that was even more dangerous, as it left the Iron Horde remaining on the peninsula free to hunt down any scattered survivors. Multiple times they had heard bursts of spellfire and gunfire, followed by the screams of the dying. Those had become rarer and rarer as time went on, as the Iron Horde had found all of those who’d become separated from the Iron Vanguard invasion force.
Twice the foursome had encountered Iron Horde patrols, but had been fortunate enough the first time to have gotten the drop on the orcs. The second time, both groups had spotted each other at the same time, and while the dwarves and gnomes had prevailed, it wasn’t until after one of the orcs had fired off a flare, calling for reinforcements. They’d spent several sleepless days hiding from increased patrols before the Iron Horde appeared to give up, and they decided to build a raft and head south, toward what appeared to be a more hospitable shore than the expanse of jungle they’d seen to the northwest.
Widge lifted up the raft’s lid again.
“Get ready, we’re about to –”
The raft slammed into something, rolling onto its side, eliciting a howl of outrage from Frostmaw. The bear had been cooped up inside the raft so long that even Ringo was having trouble keeping him calm. Now, the raft burst open on a lavender shore, dumping the group unceremoniously into the surf at the edge of a bluish forest.
Ringo lifted his face far enough out of the surf to keep himself from drowning, but didn’t raise himself up further. Looking up, he spotted a pair of hooves, armored legs, then a draenei crossbow pointed at his face.
“You are dwarves, yes, and gnomes?”
“Aye, we are,” Ringo said, hoping his bear wouldn’t decide to swat the crossbow out of her hands. “We’re friendlies. Ringo Flinthammer. That’s Frostmaw. That’s Widge, Baelan and Vamen.”
“Aye, although we hae nae seen Alliance fer several weeks now; we’ve been stuck in the jungle to the north, avoidin’ Iron Horde patrols.”
Widge looked back over his shoulder at the jungle and raft behind them, then turned to follow the others inland.
“Live together, or die alone.”