It was dark on the farm. The dwarf and gnome refugees were mostly down for the night, nestled in their snug homes under the ground. A few watchmen rode their rams on patrol, but it was mostly an excuse for them to smoke their pipes and think. The only sound was of the waves of the Forbidding Sea lapping the lonely shore. The refugees’ settlement was an almost unnoticed strip of land at the base of the cliffs east of the Arathi Highlands. There was no route up the cliffs, and no sign that the residents of the highlands had any idea anyone was hiding down here. The hope was the Burning Legion would be equally likely to overlook them here.
Bael Flinthammer waited until his family was asleep before waking up. Once Grandfather Rockbottom and Uncle Omar began snoring, no one would — no one could — hear the creak of his bed or his feet hitting the floor.
He slipped outside, watching for the glow of the watchmen’s pipes to see where they had stopped to have a think.
Bael ducked behind some of the crates of junk outside the entrance to the below-ground shelter. The crates were full of things that had seemed like treasures during the hasty evacuation from Stormwind. But once they had settled in this refuge, the refugees had discovered that, say, three dozen finely beaded ballgowns weren’t much use in their new life, hiding from the Legion. So until someone could figure out what to do with them — Bael was very worried someone would decide they should be turned into tunics and trousers for growing dwarf boys — they were piled up outside, where they provided a good place for him to sit and get some privacy.
Reaching into his tunic, he pulled out a letter, sealed with the Flinthammer crest, a pair of beer mugs canted toward one another, as though his parents were toasting something happy, rather than a world apart and not speaking to one another. Under the ominous green light of the world hanging in the sky, Bael opened it, and read.
“Your Uncle Widge has kept his word. He hasn’t broken your mother’s confidence and told me where you are, but he promises this letter will get to you. If you’re ‘hiding’ in Thelsamar, I’m going to feel pretty foolish, but your mother never does anything halfway, so you could be in Kezan for all I know.
“Wherever you are, I hope you forgive me. Don’t tell her I said so, but I think your mother enjoys being mad, and can stay madder longer than anyone I know. There’s a female night elf in the Cenarion Circle that she’s been mad at for more than a dozen years, and I can’t even remember how it all started. It’s entirely possible that your mother will never forgive me for my choice to stay and fight in the Broken Isles. I hope you can, at least.
“Since before you were born, I’ve been fighting to make Khaz Modan safe. I’ve fought in battles you’ve heard of, and ones you haven’t, against foes that I expect your grandchildren will know the names of, and against some that I expect most folks back in Thelsamar would be hard-pressed to identify. And your mother, Frostmaw and I have done it all so that we can keep the dangers we’ve faced from ever touching you and the rest of our family.
“But you should know that every moment I’m away from you, whether it’s been as near as Tol Barad or as far away as Draenor, I miss you terribly. It’s why I brought home Lucky, years ago, to have him watch over you when I can’t. Every night when I try to sleep, I wonder if I made the right choice being away from you, at what feels like it might really be the end of the world. But it’s because the danger is so real that I chose to go and fight, rather than trusting someone with fewer scars and less to lose would fight equally hard in my place.
“When the Sons of Lothar pushed the Horde back through the Dark Portal, the way back was destroyed behind them and they were thought lost for almost 20 years. Some of them seem to have been lost forever.
“There’s no way you haven’t seen Argus in the sky or have figured out what it means. The Armies of Legionfall are boarding a ship the draenei have apparently been quietly getting ready for some time. I’ll be going with them to Argus, to take the battle to the Burning Legion at long last. I’ve been having nightmares about the Burning Legion invading Khaz Modan since long before you were born and it’s time to put an end to them.
“But it’s possible I won’t be coming home, either because I’ll fall in battle against the Legion or, like the Sons of Lothar, the Armies of Legionfall will find themselves trapped on Argus, cut off from Azeroth. I don’t tell you this to scare you, but because there are some things I need to say to you now, in case I never got another chance to:
“I am prouder of you than anything else I’ve ever done in my life and trying to live up to who you think I am has made me a better person than I’ve ever been.
“If I am not there for you growing up, know that I regret that more than I have words to say and would have been there if I thought there had been any way to give you both safety and a father.
“Some advice, for you, that I would have given you in person, if I had the chance:
“Learn to admit mistakes. It’s the scariest thing in the world for many, but it’s the only way anything you say will ever be worth listening to.
“Be kind, especially when it would be easier not to be. The world is hard enough without us making it more so. No one can be truly great if they are unkind.
“Learn to listen more than you speak. This is one I’m still working on, myself.
“Doing the necessary thing instead of the easy thing is just as hard as it looks, but is the most important thing in the world. I wish I had been more like your Uncle Ely in that.
“Don’t hesitate with opportunities, whether it’s a job or giving someone your heart. Some people say opportunities are like a door opening, but if so, it’s a door on a tram. If you hesitate, the tram will be gone. Regretting an opportunity not taken is the worst regret of all.
“But above all, be kind.
“Oh, assuming you’ve forgiven me by then: Once this is all over, get Frostmaw back from the druids and Beer Run back from Lina Hearthstove. Wherever I am, I’d like to know our family is back together, safe and sound.
“I love you forever and ever, your father,
Bael stared at the signature for a while, refolded the letter and stared at Argus. He didn’t go back inside and climb in bed until he felt his eyelids beginning to droop of their own accord.