Nothing really ends. Especially not wars.
Ringo Flinthammer had known nothing but war since he was a boy, when orcs first invaded Azeroth. And in every war since, leaders had told soldiers marching off to war, or fighting to drive the orcs from their homelands, it would all be over by the Feast of Winter Veil. Ringo guessed night elf leaders a millennium ago probably told their soldiers they would all be home from the War of the Shifting Sands in time for the Lunar Festival.
Sargeras’ defeat was not a secret. There were lights in sky over Argus and a vision of Sargeras — or maybe the titan himself — appeared above Azeroth for a moment before a new red star appeared in the sky.
Moments later, Legion ships vanished from the skies over both worlds, winking out in a flash of green, one by one.
But that left members of the Burning Legion trapped on both worlds. Many of them dug in, determined to defeat the Armies of the Legionfall and the Army of Light. Or to take as many of their opponents with them as they could.
Mop-up operations had gone on for weeks. The Legion had controlled Argus for millennia. Rooting them out might take decades.
As happened in Quel’Danas and Northrend and Pandaria and Draenor, the occupation lasted longer than the war itself. The war zone became home. Slop splashed into dented metal plates became home meals. Bedrolls, slowly rotting from nightly contact with the corrosive soil, became the feather beds waiting at the end of the day.
At times, Ringo half-convinced himself the Stoutlager Inn, with its comforting fire and the smell of beer and roasting sausages, which had soaked into the stone walls and floor over centuries, was just a pleasant dream. As was his elderly ram, now only suitable for giving rides to children in Thelsamar and cropping the grass in front of his home. As was the son who forgot his father’s face more each day. And the wife who …
An explosion. Then blackness. And silence.
“Are ye all right?” Ringo said, shaking his head in a futile attempt to get the ringing out of his ears.
“Maybe,” Baelan Grimaxe called from around the corner. The two dwarves were hiding behind a fallen Garothi Obliterator hiding from cannonfire. “It blew up right near my — oh, sweet Eonar, they blew off my toes! Help me find my toes!”
Ringo peeked over the edge and pulled his head back to avoid another explosion.
“Let’s wait — they’ve got to be almost out of …”
Then came the biggest explosion yet. Maybe it was two explosions. Both dwarves and the ruined Legion construct lifted off the black and ruined earth and hurled them dozens of yards forward. Ringo wiped the stinging black dirt — everything the Legion touched became corrosive with time, leading to endless rashes and nosebleeds in the time he’d spent on Argus — from his eyes and pulled his goggles back down.
“Baelan!” he yelled.
Ringo couldn’t tell if the paladin was alive or dead, but couldn’t wait to find out. The cannon on the hill was turning to fire at the dwarves where they lay. Ringo staggered to his feet, holding his Boarshot Cannon in one hand, dragging Baelan with the other.
“Ah could really use some help here …”
He saw the shell leave the cannon before he heard the shot. But the flash of light didn’t go away. After a moment, Ringo realized he was looking up at a shining yellow dome of light. And then something raced past him, a fish-scented wind of fur and claws.
“Ugh, what are you wearing?”
Holding her staff aloft to maintain the sphere, Beli Flinthammer kicked Ringo’s gun to him.
“This is the uniform of the Army of Light,” Ringo said, getting to his feet. He fired a shot off at one of the demons who sought to flee a rampaging Frostmaw. “Ah make a lot of terrible decisions when ye’re not around.”
“I can see that.”
“Nay,” Beli scoffed. “I just have a really stuck jar I need help opening.”
“OK, we’re clear,” he said. “Help me find the rest of Baelan’s toes.”
“Oh, you’ll never believe who it was who was censoring the mail going to and from the troops …”
“Aye, and ye’ll never believe what Ah have tae tell ye about the Titans …”