This is Our Army

22. The Iron Tide, Ringo's Tale | December 31st, 2014 | No Comments »

Lieutenant Thorn

“So, aboot this armor …”

“Yes, Mountaineer Flinthammer, it just arrived via the weekly Stormshield portal to Ironforge,” Lieutenant Thorn said, not looking up from the paperwork spread out before her. “It’s a new, higher-quality set of Trailseeker mountaineer gear. Even the ones back home aren’t wearing it yet.”

“Ah wanted tae talk to ye aboot tha shoulder situation.”

“Yes, the commander was very clear: Everyone at Lunarfall Garrison will be wearing a full set of armor while on duty, including shoulder armor.”

“But tha uniform didnae come wit’ any. Well, it did, but it wer’ jist a scrap o’ paper, saying ‘Trailseeker Spaulders,’ but there wer’ nothin’ in tha box.”

“Nevertheless, the commander was very clear on this point.”

“Right. So Ah spoke tae the quartermaster in Ashran.”

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A Long Way from Home

22. The Iron Tide, Ringo's Tale | December 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Ringo in Lunarfall Garrison

“Dearest Beli and Bael:

Letter“Another Feast of Winters Veil you’re spending without me. I’m sorry I’m missing it once again — sorrier than most years, because I did not get a chance to warn you I was saying goodbye.

“As you have probably heard by now, we survived our trip through the Dark Portal. I don’t know why it turned red, exactly, although Widge keeps trying to explain it to me, but we ended up in the past of Draenor. Or maybe a past of Draenor: Widge says it’s close, but not exactly the same as the one Garrosh Hellscram was born on. In any case, the Mag’har of this time have been turned into a war machine under the command of Grommash Hellscream, although Garrosh is obviously somewhere in the shadows, whipping the Iron Horde up into a frenzy against the Alliance and Stormwind.

“Widge, Vamen, Baelan and I are now stationed in the Alliance base of [REDACTED], in [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] is nothing like we remember it from Outland, Beli: It’s a beautiful [REDACTED] land, full of [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] [REDACTED]. Widge and I have been taking shifts in the base’s [REDACTED] and other times, we go on patrol and other missions with the others.

“I reckon you’ve heard about Commander [REDACTED] back on Azeroth. We don’t see much of [REDACTED], as [REDACTED] is always off with Khadgar, it seems like, or on secret missions of one sort or another. There’s no Winters Veil decorations up at [REDACTED] and I’m told there’s not any at [REDACTED], either. But the commander did prevail upon Khadgar to get portals open for us to send mail through to our loved ones for the holiday.

“Frostmaw is here with me and fine, although he’s had to stay back at [REDACTED] during raids; the commander’s got some new ideas about maximum [REDACTED] during missions.

“I’ve attached some [REDACTED] [REDACTED] for you, Beli, and a [REDACTED] made by the native draenei for you, Bael. I’m hoping the Alliance censors let those through, seeing as it’s the holidays.

“I am sorry I could not be there with you. Everything happened so fast this time, and the threat of the Iron Horde was so great, to you and all of us, I had to head to the front immediately. I promised to be take you fishing, Bael, and I will be back as soon as I can, to do just that. Beli, I’ve promised you so many things, and I mean to honor all of them. We will finish this as soon as possible, and without making the same mistakes that tore Draenor apart during the Second War, I hope. Take care of your mother, Bael.

“I love you both and I will be home as soon as I can.

“Merry Feast of Winters Veil, Ringo”

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Lost in Action

22. The Iron Tide, Ringo's Tale | December 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Eventide Landing

“Finally!”

RaftSergeant Widge Gearloose wiped the seawater from his goggles as he ducked his head back down. The group had worked hard to get their makeshift raft to look merely like a chunk of shipwreck debris, but any Iron Horde mariners wouldn’t be fooled if they saw a gnome head peeking out from between the planks.

“Land is in sight. We’ve been heading south so it’s Shadowmoon Valley, I guess. It’s hard to tell, really.”

The dwarves — Knight-Captain Ringo Flinthammer and Baelan Grimaxe — muttered dourly. Whatever this place was, it wasn’t the Outland they’d been expecting. While neither objected to fighting orcs, where they were, when they were and how they might one day get back home nagged at them.

“Almost the Feast o’ Winter Veil, too,” Ringo muttered, thumping his skull back against the sodden wood. “Ah’m the worst father e’er.”

“Cheer up,” the fourth refugee in their raft said, the gnome Vamen D’barr.

He was trying on a selection of hats he’d acquired on this side of the Dark Portal, having somehow lost his in transit.

“First, if we are in a different time, no time might have passed at all back on Azeroth. Or, you know, maybe thousands of years have passed and everyone we know is already dead. Either way, not much point in worrying about it.”

“Thank ye, that’s very comforting,” Ringo growled.

They had spent the last two weeks ducking and hiding in the jungle that occupied the place where the Hellfire Peninsula should have been. The pitched battle against the Alliance and Horde had died down almost immediately, but that was even more dangerous, as it left the Iron Horde remaining on the peninsula free to hunt down any scattered survivors. Multiple times they had heard bursts of spellfire and gunfire, followed by the screams of the dying. Those had become rarer and rarer as time went on, as the Iron Horde had found all of those who’d become separated from the Iron Vanguard invasion force.

Twice the foursome had encountered Iron Horde patrols, but had been fortunate enough the first time to have gotten the drop on the orcs. The second time, both groups had spotted each other at the same time, and while the dwarves and gnomes had prevailed, it wasn’t until after one of the orcs had fired off a flare, calling for reinforcements. They’d spent several sleepless days hiding from increased patrols before the Iron Horde appeared to give up, and they decided to build a raft and head south, toward what appeared to be a more hospitable shore than the expanse of jungle they’d seen to the northwest.

Widge lifted up the raft’s lid again.

“Get ready, we’re about to –”

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The Lost Ones

22. The Iron Tide, Ringo's Tale | December 2nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The Tanaan Coast

“One thing’s fer sure: This ain’t Hellfire Peninsula,” Knight-Captain Ringo Flinthammer growled, slapping at a biting insect on his neck. “Not sure which place Ah hate more — Hellfire or this damned jungle.”

The group of four had made a camp in a cave they’d found after rejecting the idea of setting up camp on a beach they’d found: They’d spotted an Iron Horde steamship distantly off shore and hadn’t wanted to discover if crew members were scanning the shoreline with spyglasses.

The night had been a rough one: The distant sounds of battle became less and less frequent, but common enough that the group hadn’t dared make a fire, lest it give away their location. And the buzzing sounds Ringo had once associated with iron stars seemed to now be the basis of Iron Horde engineering. Loud vehicles giving off a red glow whirred through the air and smashed their way through the jungle throughout the night, meaning even those not on watch got little sleep.

“At least the animals are right,” Ringo said, pulling his hand away from his neck, holding out a hideous dead insect. “Bloodsting wasp. These were only left in a few parts of Zangarmarsh before; the rest o’ Draenor were too dry after bein’ blown to crap at the end o’ the Second War. Ah wonder what changed.”

Sergeant Widge Gearloose started to say something, then changed his mind, digging through his toolbox.

“Where is my screwdriver? I could work wonders with a screwdriver …”

“I think it’s pretty obvious where we are,” Vamen D’barr said.

The demons the gnome warlock had summoned, one after another, had insisted the Iron Vanguard had ended up back on Draenor, which was obviously not the whole story. Ringo’s imp in a ball (”Ye thought Ah’d forgotten about ye, didn’t ye wee bastard?“) had been similarly unhelpful.

“And where’s that, then?” Baelan Grimaxe growled, his back to the group, scanning the forest for signs of Iron Horde or, barring that, something more appetizing than the grubs and berries Ringo had insisted were edible. (”Mana pudding gives me the squirts,” the dwarf had helpfully explained earlier.)

“Purgatory,” Vamen said proudly, then deflated when he saw the blank expressions staring back at him. “For crying out loud, is the Church of the Holy Light the only religion you troggs know?”

We worship the Titans in me family,” Ringo muttered.

“Yes, yes, ‘Khaz’goroth on a cracker,’” Vamen mimicked Ringo’s booming voice. “In other religions, there’s an explicit afterlife — a place where the dead go after they die. Often, there’s several places: a ‘Heaven’ for the ‘good’ people, a ‘Hell’ for the ‘bad’ people and sometimes a ‘Purgatory’ for the people who are in-between, where they essentially serve a sort of jail term before being allowed to go to the ‘good people place.’”

Baelan snorted.

“Seems like the kind of thing intended to keep philosophers busy to me.”

“Maybe, but some of the demons I’ve spoken to confirm that there are more planes than just our own, the Twisting Nether and the Emerald Dream of the night elves,” Vamen said. “What if we’re lost in one of those? Maybe some orcish afterlife of some sort?”

Baelan considered it.

“It’s not the worst …”

“That’s not it,” Widge said, snapping his toolbox shut and holding his wand up and peering at it, as though he was using it to measure something in the air. “We’ve become unstuck in time.”

“But the Iron Horde is nae our Horde’s past,” Ringo said. “And someone would have noticed if Outland were getting put back together.”

“Guys,” Vamen asked, pausing as the sound of a distant Iron Horde war machine filled the air. “When are we?“

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Lost in Transition

22. The Iron Tide, Ringo's Tale | November 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The Tanaan Jungle

He opened one eye, staring upwards. Green.

He blinked the eye several times, and the green swam into focus: leaves, a jungle canopy.

Jungle?

Knight-Captain Ringo Flinthammer sat up, then wished he hadn’t: He was so dizzy, he thought he might pass out. When he took his hand away from his temple, there was blood on it.

“Khaz’goroth on a cracker, what happened?”

There was a roaring noise from somewhere nearby in the jungle, but the ringing in Ringo’s ears made it hard to determine what it was, or where it was coming from.

A wolf, a large one with an empty saddle on its back, raced by. Someone nearby called out a name.

Ringo turned his head, and wished he hadn’t — the pain was excruciating.

There was metal debris everywhere, twisted and burned. Patches of ground were burning — no, not ground, corpses.

Ringo remembered entering the red field that now filled the Dark Portal and — nothing. His memories stopped there. He slapped at a mosquito and climbed unsteadily to his feet.

A dwarf’s leg stuck out from under a pile of twisted scrap. It wasn’t moving, but it still had good color — its owner hadn’t bled out yet, might even still be alive. Feeling he ought to do something, Ringo staggered over and tried to move the debris off the dwarf.

There was that noise again. A roaring or maybe a grinding. An iron star?

“You don’t seem afraid at all,” someone nearby said. “I don’t understand that.”

Ringo nodded.

“Fear’s a funny thing,” he said, attempting to shift the metal. When he saw he might crush whoever was trapped underneath, he moved around, and tried to lift it. The other person moved to the far side, doing the same. “Ah make a choice: Ah let the fear in, let it take over, let it do it’s thing, but only fer five seconds. That’s all Ah give it. So, one, two, three, four, five.”

On “five,” he and the other person lifted the metal, revealing the prone form of Baelan Grimaxe. Of course: He’d borne the brunt of the blast when the Iron Horde …

When they crossed through the Dark Portal, the Iron Horde had been waiting for them, had unleashed guns, cannons, throwing axes and more.

“Are you OK, Ringo?” Sgt. Widge Gearloose looked concerned, lowering his half of the debris to the rich red clay beside Baelan’s body. Another gnome, Vamen D’barr, knelt beside the fallen dwarf paladin, checking for a pulse. “You’ve got a nasty head wound there.”

Before Ringo could answer, there was that noise again and a large white bear, streaked with gray smoke and blood, burst out of the forest, almost bowling Ringo over.

“Frostmaw!” Ringo clung to the bear, hugging him tightly, without embarrassment.

“Dude,” Baelan groaned, sitting slowly up. “This isn’t Hellfire Peninsula.”

“Guys,” Vamen asked, his expression a mix of confusion and frustration as he looked around the jungle here on the far side of the Dark Portal. “Where are we?

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