Beli Flinthammer slapped at her neck.
The enormous Zuldazar mosquito burst with a sickening plop and she shuddered. The mosquitos of the Wetlands had nothing on these beasts.
She wiped the blood and insect guts off her neck and yelped in alarm.
“Not the letter, you little bastard!” Beli frantically tried to clean the spattered blood and goo off the letter, then scraped at it with her fingernail.
“Letter from home, eh?” came a woman’s voice nearby.
Beli looked over. A Dark Iron woman nodded ruefully at her, lifting a letter of her own.
“Letter from my daughter,” she said. “Meant to be here for the Feast of Winter Veil, but I guess it got delayed.”
“Same here,” Beli replied. ” Letter from my son.”
The Alliance outpost in Xibala was dominated by the Dark Irons, which meant Dwarvish food almost as good as home, even if they favored a smokier, spicier flavor than Beli was used to back home.
“At least they’re not censored like during Operation Legionfall. My brother-in-law was a postmaster and thought it was cute to censor every other blessed word.”
The Dark Iron woman snorted.
“Thanks; first good laugh I’ve had for weeks.”
“Miss the wee one?” Beli said.
“Aye,” the other woman said. “Her father and I … well, it’s my first campaign without having a parent there to watch over Marisi.”
“I understand. My husband, he’s called up or volunteered for every campaign since Ahn’Qiraj. I always reckoned he had it easier, bein’ busy at the front, with no time to miss Bael and me. But …”
“They’re both hard.”
“Aye,” Beli said.
The Dark Iron woman carefully refolded her letter and tucked it away inside her mail armor, then extended a hand.
“Beli Flinthammer,” Beli said, shaking Kildris’ hand.
“Happy Feast of Winter Veil.”
“Happy Feast of Winter Veil. May we be back home for the next one.”
When Mordrun Flinthammer was a boy, his brothers would hunt him.
Mordrun had long ago discovered that he loved wriggling under the surface of the Anvilmar snow. His brothers were baffled by the behavior. Bragh would lead their little brothers, Ringo and Ely, on hunting expeditions for Mordrun, accompanied by Bragh’s pet of the moment to help sniff him out.
Bragh learned to move almost flat on his back through the snow, creating natural tunnels that wouldn’t disturb the snow’s surface or give any hint that a giggling dwarf boy was sliding along underneath.
When Mordrun would finally get caught, sometimes hours later, he’d be brought in by Bragh and his triumphant younger brothers, who would view the affair as a mighty quest completed by the Flinthammer Boys.
His oldest brother, Durkon, would usually be at the forge, hammering a blade’s edge, or listening to war stories from veterans, absorbing everything he could from them. Durkon would fix Mordrun, shivering and having a mornbrew pressed into his hands by their mother to warm him up, with a disappointed gaze and shake his head.
“What good is sneaking around under the snow?”
Mordrun was pretty sure Durkon was born an old grump.
And, in any case, Durkon was wrong. Slithering around under the snow had been useful after all.
Mordrun raised his head slowly. The wet leaves made no sound and the black mud beneath him released him without a squelch. He could see over the rise and watched the Horde caravan move through Darkshore.
They were nervous.
He and the survivors of Darnassus had harassed the Horde for weeks, but Malfurion Stormrage had ordered them to not lay into the Horde like they wanted to, not until Tyrande Whisperwind had accomplished some task she had been working on.
Mordrun didn’t know what it was. The elves trusted him, but only to a point. He was a feral beast, as far as they were concerned, which he figured was fair enough.
Still, Mordrun was bored. The elves wouldn’t mind if this particular supply caravan didn’t make it to the front intact. He tensed, preparing to leap on the orcs serving as the rear guard when something heavy bounded over him, tearing through the Horde soldiers in a matter of moments.
When the lone survivor was sent fleeing as a warning to the rest of the Horde, Malfurion turned toward Mordrun in his hiding place and smirked.
“The time for waiting is over. We attack at sunrise.”