Ringo tugged at Dolly’s sleeve.
“Kneel, girlie!” Then, to Beli, kneeling on the other side of him, “I told ye we shouldn’t have brought her.”
“Shhh!” Beli scowled, “The king!”
He raised his eyes, peeping up through bushy eyebrows as King Magni Bronzebeard stepped out onto the dias, lit by pools of lava to either side of the High Seat itself.
“ALL HAIL, KING MAGNI BRONZEBEARD, THANE OF CLAN BRONZEBEARD, RULER OF IRONFORGE, LORD OF ALL KHAZ MODAN. LONG LIVE THE KING!”
“Long live the king!” echoed Ringo and Beli, along with the rest of the assembled court. Dolly was quietly muttering something about her dress, but at least she was kneeling. Ringo had begged the cousin they were staying with in town to keep the bear, but Dolly had managed to make a mess in the tailoring shop, and Mangorn had refused to take her.
Court business was tedious, mostly the king adjudicating over mining claims, and hearing reports about the problems in Bael Modan. Ringo was curious about the famous archaeological dig in Kalimdor, but most of the discussion had to do with troop numbers in the fortress the dwarves had built to guard it, and supply lines and tariffs in Ratchet. Finally, it was their turn.
“And finally, two from House Flinthammer, of your majesty’s clan,” the courtier said, reading off the scroll. King Magni’s eyes flickered briefly to the Flinthammers, with no spark of recognition. Clan Bronzebeard was the largest clan in Khaz Modan since the War of the Three Hammers, and Ringo would have been surprised had the king known either of them.
The courtier fumbled a moment, glancing up at the senators clustered around the edge of the dais. He edged away from them, towards the steps down, in case he needed to run. Senator Barin Redstone surveyed him coolly, hand gripping on his knobby walking stick.
“They’re here to form a militia. Eep!” The courtier flinched as Redstone took a quick step forward, before stepping back, eyes boring into the king.
The king’s eyes lifted slowly to the Flinthammers.
“Oh ho? So Khaz Modan has in it a few more dwarves who remember their courage?” The king fingered his long braided beard, the silver rings woven into it gleaming in the lava light. The chamber was quiet, the sounds of industry in the Great Forge echoing through the passageways.
The courtier coughed.
“Er, yes, yer majesty.” Ringo blushed furiously, and was aware of Redstone studying his face, making it very clear he would remember Ringo’s face and name. “There’s them trolls in Coldridge and the troggs. And them Dark Iron buggers.”
Beli’s hand found his, and gave it a squeeze.
“And we’re concerned about the possibility of the Burning Legion returning, so please your majesty,” she said.
The king grunted loudly, idly picking a piece of his lunch from his beard.
“You are wise to be concerned.” He popped the morsel in his mouth, chewing. “And will you be consorting with pirates again, Master Flinthammer?”
Beli clapped her free hand to her face in horror, covering her eyes. Her hand squeezed Ringo’s painfully, warningly.
“Er, no, yer majesty. Well, we don’t expect to. Last we heard, that Riverdane privateer fella is chasing another bunch of pirates around the Maelstrom.” Beli squeezed his hand again anyway. “NOT that we’d spend time with a person of his repute anyway, sir. Yer majesty.”
The king grunted again, considering.
“No, of course not. We have a few names we might suggest for your militia, Master Flinthammer. Subject to your approval, of course.” The king’s tone suggested that very few dwarves had ever dared to fail to approve one of his decisions. A sidelong glance towards Redstone said they were all senators.
“I-I’m sure they will all make wonderful additions to the militia, yer majesty, sir.”
“Yes, well, I will have them get in touch with you through your cousin’s shop here in Ironforge, or through your cousin’s stable in Menethil Harbor.”
“Excellent, sir, er, yer majesty. Thank you.”
“Now then,” the king held out an expectant hand to his courtier, who dropped the charter into the king’s waiting hand, then hustled over to him with a granite tablet with a built in inkwell and a gold fountain pen. The king scanned the charter. “There’s no name here. I’ll write it in for you. What do you call your militia?”
Ringo glanced over at Beli and winked.
“Sawed Off, yer Majesty.”