“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 …”
“Lt. Commander Flinthammer, you’re here! And you’ve brought … your husband.”
“Always glad to get back to Dun Baldar. It’s been too long since we’ve been here.”
“Always a pleasure to have you back, Lt. Commander. We reached out because our forces in Alterac Valley have recently captured some adolescent frost wolves and were able to train them to take Alliance riders. Given your achievements here, we thought it only fitting you have the first pick.”
“Of these two?”
“Ah’ll take the frisky one!”
“Er, Knight-Commander Flinthammer, the frost wolves are a reward for the Lt. Commander. One of them, at any rate.”
“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.
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.”