“Thank you, Marisi. Could you take the letter to your father? And don’t forget his reading glasses.”
“He says he doesn’t need them.”
“You and I both know he’s wrong. Thank you!”
Marisi Blackfire-Flinthammer grabbed the half-moon spectacles from the stone shelf where her adoptive father had been steadfastly ignoring them, folded the letter back up, and climbed up out of Flinthammer Hall.
The only bear in the world was asleep, sprawled out on the bluish-purple grass, leaking out gas that smelled like fish from either end.
The shimmering blue creature in the stream nearby looked like a bear, but wasn’t. Not really.
Still, he was enjoying getting into the mindset of the bear. Standing still in the stream, waiting for the fish to forget that the four limbs in the water were a living being, he listened to the sounds, breathed in its scents, and was at peace.
The Drust were gone, for now, at least, and bird song was returning to areas of the forest where it had vanished. The smell of scorched plants had abated. Things were quiet once more.
“Khaz’goroth on a cracker! Back off, ye bloody stupid birds, or I’ll … ow! What is wrong with ye?”
The dwarf woman came crashing along through the stream, accompanied by the outraged squawks of a heron, sending the fish scurrying for cover.
She stood up, dripping, trying to recover some sense of dignity. Her face broke into a delighted grin when she saw the bear.
“Frostmaw! Ah’ve been looking all over for ye!”
The bear opened one eye, farted again, and sat up, making a delighted noise, nosing the woman.
“Would ye keep it down? Ye’re scaring the fishes.”
“Anything yet, Professor? It feels like it’s been a month! Well, maybe,” Beli Flinthammer mused. “Time is weird here in the Shadowlands. Is it still the Year of the Phoenix?”
“We do not have time as you know it here in the Shadowlands, Butcher,” the Professor rumbled, precise, crisp enunciation coming from a massive body, stitched together from corpses and weapons from around Maldraxxus. “We measure time in ‘cycles,’ but it doesn’t move in the ways you are used to. Do you have something to draw with? When drawn, it looks like the word ‘Jeremy –‘”
“Not important!” Beli snapped. “Back to what we were doing. How about that book?”
The Professor took the tome in his massive hands, carefully turning the pages.
“Yes, thousands of them, but nothing recent. These battles took place tens of thousands of cycles ago, long before Azeroth was born.”
“Are you telling me there’s no book in Maldraxxus that tells the fate of more recent souls?”
“This library is completely insufficient, as I have said many times,” the Professor said mournfully. “But there are libraries elsewhere, including towers once maintained by the House of Eyes to the north, where secrets known only to them are kept.”