Despite what some idiots were desperate to believe — that the Bronzebeard who called herself the “queen regent” had brought peace to the Dark Iron — most who lived in Shadowforge still conducted themselves like a people under siege.
And that meant, every time an adult Dark Iron left the relative safety of Blackrock Mountain, they dropped their child off at the dwarfanage and told them goodbye. If they survived the hostile world outside, they would reclaim them.
But if not, their child was already prepared for the worst and looked over by matrons who would raise them and train them so that they could avenge their parents.
His own parents had never returned from Grim Batol. During the Second War, they had been sent there to recover some artifacts believed lost during the War of the Three Hammers. But while they were there, the orcs of the Dragonmaw clan had descended on the city, claiming it for their own. Both his parents had been killed.
He had shed no tears. If he was the sort of child to show that kind of weakness, he would have cried when they dropped him off at the dwarfanage. But he had not. He had known that they were doing Ragnaros’ will and that the world outside of Blackrock Mountain’s fiery embrace would likely be the death of all of them.
Although she tried to be strong, his daughter always cried when he dropped her off at the dwarfanage.
“Nice of them to give Beli something to hit,” Kildris Blackfire said, surveying the valley from Dun Baldar’s South Bunker.
“When she’s away from the boy too long, she either hits the Horde or starts eyein’ me.”
“I can understand that.”
“Ah’m sorry; I dinnae think about yer wee one … is she stayin’ with yer ex-husband while ye were deployed?”
“No!” Kildris barked, halfway between a laugh and a snarl. “That idjit got some strange ideas after Ragnaros died. Joined the Twilight Hammer, went around tellin’ everyone there’s a ‘war on Winter Veil.’ There’s no war, it’s just not proper to assume! The draenei have one of their bloody depressing holidays this time of year, with lights and deprivation and all the rest! ‘Happy holidays’ is just good manners!”
“Right, aye,” Ringo said. “Well, your little girl should be happy to see ye; did ye pick her up a gift ta …”
“Flinthammer! Flinthammer! Field medic Flinthammer! Over here!”
Beli Flinthammer hauled the Alliance soldier to his feet, satisfied herself that his bandages would survive boarding the waiting ship and propelled him on his way with a hand between shoulder blades.
“Stormwind’s that way,” she said, before turning to the sound of the voice. “What can I do ye fer?”
“Three more coming in,” Master Sergeant Zaren roared over the sound of flying machines ferrying in casualties from higher up the burning city of Dazar’alor.
Beli looked around the Mobile Alliance Surgical Hospital and nodded, pointing.
“We’ve got four cots open.”
The man’s eyes fluttered open after a nearby explosion left everyone’s ears ringing.
“Lieutenant Commander Flinthammer?”
“Private,” she said, wrapping a bandage around a now-clean wound. “You’ve done enough for now. We’re sending you home.”
He started to object, but Beli was already turning away, eyes on the pyramid rising up above the jungle canopy.
“Your husband up there?” Kildris Blackfire said, appearing at her side. The Dark Iron was on guard duty, keeping both Zandalari and Horde away from the hospital.
“I reckon,” Beli sighed, blowing her hair out of her eyes. “Or somewhere. All they told us of the plan was ‘stay here and have everyone ready to leave in a hurry.'”
Both dwarves winced as there was another explosion and what sounded like the cry of a great jungle beast.
“Yer husband fighting for the Alliance, too?” Beli asked.
Kildris barked with bitter laughter.
“That would be something to see,” she said sourly. “Not everyone gave up the old religion once Ragnaros was defeated back in Molten Core. My useless husband’s in the Twilight Hammer.”
Beli blinked, unsure of what to say.
“Aye,” Kildris said. “At least when you don’t know what your husband is up to, you know he’s not trying to destroy the world.”
“I reckon not. He’s an idiot, but at least he’s not an idiot.”
The portable buzzboxes all burst to life, with half-screamed Gnomish coming out. All of the gnomes around the mobile hospital leapt to their feet, with a few even climbing off the stretchers in their panic.
“What’s going on?” Kildris said, hoisting her mace.
A gnome soldier pointed at the sky, where a badly damaged mech suit flew into view.