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Author: Ringo Flinthammer

A short-lived peace

A short-lived peace

The Flinthammer family in shock

“And that’s why it’s called the ‘marginal tax rate,'” a beaming Ely Flinthammer explained. “Boop!”

Bael Flinthammer stood there, dazed, not even objecting to his uncle booping him.

“Um, I have to take Lucky for a walk. You don’t want a lion peeing inside the house.”

“Sure, sure,” Ely said, sitting back. He craned his head over one shoulder, calling to deeper within the Thelsamar home of his brother Ringo and his wife, Beli. “Are you two planning on having any other children?”

Bael and Lucky great the visitorSunlight from the open door filled the living room.

“Oh, hello,” Bael said to the figure in the doorway as Lucky inspected the human with several mighty sniffs.

“Hello,” said the man wearing the blue uniform of a Stormwind soldier. “Is Lt. Commander Flinthammer, er, your mother home?”

When Beli returned from the door after about five minutes, she was carrying two letters, one sealed, one unsealed.

“What’s goin’ on?” Ringo said, having emerged from a deeper chamber of the house in search for some tools to work on one of his rifles. “What’s goin’ on with yer face?”

“It’s Darnassus. The Horde burned Teldrassil. It’s … gone.”

There was a moment of stunned silence, broken only by Lucky deciding he really did have to go outside. A flabbergasted Bael followed after the black lion with a questioning look, no more sure than the adults about how to feel about all of this.

“So, what are those?” Ringo nodded his chin at the papers in Beli’s hand.

“Orders. The Alliance is marching on Lordaeron.”

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Priority mail

Priority mail

The mailroom beneath Dalaran

“Postmaster Flinthammer,” Katy Stampwhistle said, holding out her hand. “It’s been a pleasure.”

“It’s just ‘Ely’ now,” the youngest of the Flinthammer Boys said, shaking her hand. “I was only assigned to monitor Alliance mail during Operation Legionfall.”

He glanced ruefully around the mailroom, hidden below the streets of Dalaran. Mail zipped overhead under its own power, while mailementals sorted more mundane correspondence.

“Where will you go now?” Katy asked. “Will you be monitoring mail to and from the front lines still?”

“I’m going to visit family in Thelsamar while I figure that all out,” Ely said, with a shrug. “Not sure where those ‘front lines’ would be. Still, it was fun messing with my brothers with the censoring quill.”

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Sargeras attacks

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.

Ringo on Argus

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.

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Desperate times

Desperate times

Beli is furious

Beli Flinthammer didn’t have a plan.

She had spent weeks trying to come up with one, ever since she and her son had identified the demon hidden with the other dwarf and gnome refugees who had fled Stormwind in attempt to keep their families safe from further Burning Legion attacks.

But although she knew the demon was hiding in the shape of a gnome and calling itself Tuldire Longread, that didn’t tell her what kind of demon she was dealing with.

The wyrmtongue seemed to favor the same places that dwarves and gnomes did, but they weren’t known for cunning or deception.

Tuldire could secretly be a sayaad, a doomguard, a satyr or even — shudder — an aranasi.

But until she knew what they were facing, confronting Tuldire head on could be suicide. He could be a practically helpless imp or an annihilan, capable of leveling cities all on his own.

The danger and uncertainty had led her to order her son to stay close to the black lion, Lucky, that her husband had brought back from the Barrens many years ago. Bael had also taken to carrying his sledgehammer with him everywhere, even sleeping with it at night.

“Stay close to me, Bael.”

Her son nodded, and rested one hand on Lucky’s broad back.

Plan or no plan, they were now out of time.

“Look at Argus!” Tuldire said, pointing with his spyglass at the planet looming over them in the sky. “Those flashes of light are the Army of the Light attacking Antorus, the Burning Throne.”

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” Therum Deepforge asked, studiously avoiding looking at the bound and gagged prisoners nearby.

Tuldire shot him a look.

“They are going to lose.”

“Bael, stay with me. Bael?” Beli whipped her head around. “Where did you go?”

“Every member of the Burning Legion that’s ‘killed’ is called back to the Throne and reforms there, meaning an endless supply of troops within the fortress. The Army of the Light has no idea of Sargeras’ power, or what …”

“And you do?” Benik Boltshear snapped. It seemed like Tuldire and Beli had underestimated the refugees; they wouldn’t be going along with Tuldire’s insane plan so easily.

“The Army of the Light is going to lose,” Tuldire repeated, “and there will be no safe place left on Azeroth. The Burning Legion will sweep across this world and everyone on it will either join them or die.

“Or,” he said, pointing to the rows of prisoners, “we can be gone before they arrive.”

The portal had taken shape quickly. Beli suspected that’s why Tuldire had blended in with dwarves and gnomes — if you wanted to build something well, and quickly, there was no one better on Azeroth. Beli had been disappointed to see how easily everyone had gone along with building what clearly was an echo of the Dark Portal, but scared people could rationalize a lot.

But this final step seemed to have caused many of them, at long last, to object.

“We’re not going to sacrificed these pirates,” Benik said. “They are defenseless prisoners.”

“They will die either way,” Tuldire snapped. “Better that their deaths mean something and let us escape somewhere, far beyond the reach of the Legion.”

“But –”

“No, you simpering fools!” Tuldire roared. “We are running out of time. We must power up the portal now.”

“Ye mean kill these helpless pirates.”

“Yes, I do. It’s us or them, for –”

“Bael!” Beli couldn’t help herself — her son had crept behind Tuldire with his hammer, ready to do … something.

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