Sir Eran Heskin stood on the pier in Southshore, glad to finally be out of his battered and rusted armor. Lord Lothar had taken Prince Varian and the mage Khadgar on the road to Lordaeron’s capital to plea for aid from King Terenas, leaving the survivors to be tended to by the people of the village.
A cup of soup was held out to him, and he turned to see his wife, Katerina. “Taran?” he asked.
“Being looked after with the other children,” she replied. “Those who… weren’t so lucky.”
The orphans, you mean, he thought. Like Prince Varian, the poor lad. “You’d think it was almost like a festival, with all these people bringing food out, milling together.” He sighed, and looked seaward as he spooned up his soup - a local chowder, quite good… but his mind was too numb to enjoy it. “Sometimes I think I can almost see it.”
“Stormwind. It’s still out there somewhere. Not dead, just… wounded.” He laughed sadly. “Kind of like us.” Although still a relatively young man, not quite thirty, the recent war had brought early lines to his face… and traces of silver to his golden hair. He was tired, so were they all… but he knew, as they did, that there was work to be done. That’s why Lothar was going to Lordaeron - the old goat knew there was another fight coming with the demons that sacked Stormwind, and he wanted not just his boys to fight, but all humanity.
Light knew he was itching for a fight. But how long would the fight go on?
As if she was reading his mind, he heard Katerina ask: “Do you think it will ever be over, Eran?”
Sir Eran Heskin stood on the pier in Boralus, waiting for the ship to return from Stormwind. He had returned here courtesy of the young and cheerful Archmage Adesse Surrette, a survivor of Lordaeron he had known and respected since Northrend. She had provided them a portal to Pandaria, where they met with Lorewalker Puretide at his home village in Kun-Lai; he had agreed to teach history, in the magical way pandaren did - bringing the tales to life, in a way - to Heskin’s ten-year-old grandson, Donal, who acted as his squire. He had remarked the other night in Booty Bay that Donal was about the same age now that Taran had been when they fled from Stormwind, some thirty years before.
Donal had been raised on his war stories, hearing about the brave soldiers who had fought for Lothar and the Alliance. But Taran had lived them - and wanted nothing to do with that life, preferring to stay on his farm in Westfall, even when the Defias had been running loose. He hadn’t wanted his son to have anything to do with that life either, but in the end, he thought it better that Donal learn “how the world worked” at the side of his grandfather, rather than run away and learn it the hard way. Taran thought that Donal would think like he did, and come home and stay there.
How wrong he was. Donal stood with him now; if he favored his grandfather in his looks as well as his adventurous spirit, he would probably be about as tall, if not taller. Next to him was Adesse, wearing the garb of a Kirin Tor archmage, having traded in her Thalassian runeblade for a staff. The story went that the draconic horns on the staff head had been taken by her own hand from a blue dragon she had fought in Northrend.
The ship finally arrived, and he looked and saw only two of the three he had been expecting. He held out his plate-armored hand for the first of them. “My lady,” he said, bowing his head to her.
“You’re not as fancy as you look, Eran.” Katerina - who had aged a lot more gracefully than he had - took his hand with an amused smile as he escorted her off the boat. “Adesse, good to see you.”
The archmage grinned. “Good to be seen, Lady Heskin.”
“Yes.” Katerina turned back to her husband. “By the Light, Eran. That armor makes you look like a museum relic.”
Heskin chuckled. “I feel like a museum relic sometimes, Kat, so I might as well look the part.” His smile faded slightly as he turned to the other. “Maddie… just you?”
“You know how he is, Papa Eran.” Madeline, Donal’s mother, spoke with an exaggerated deep voice."‘There’s too much work to do here. He knows where I live.’" She snorted as she returned to her own voice. “Stubborn old goat.” She glanced at her son, who was grinning at his mother’s impersonation of his father.
The elder Heskin was not smiling; he looked sad, in fact. “Adesse, if you would please take them and show them around? It’s probably quieter these days, but you can never be too sure.”
Adesse nodded, hearing his unspoken request to be alone with his wife. “Of course.” She escorted Madeline and Donal away, taking them to see the harbor.
Katerina looked him over as they began walking up the steps from the pier behind them. “By all appearances, you’re ten years older than you were a year ago.”
“This was a hard war. Worse even than the First War.” He chuckled humorlessly. “I’m getting rather old for this.”
“Have you ever thought Taran might be right? You’ve done plenty for Stormwind in your life, Eran. Forty years, all those scars… we nearly lost you after Blackrock Spire.” An orcish battleaxe had nearly taken his life in that climactic battle, which had claimed the life of Lord Lothar. The wound was so severe that it had prevented him from joining Turalyon’s forces during their invasion of Draenor. He had wept when he knew that the Sons of Lothar would go without him.
“I swore an oath to fight the enemies of my king and my people, Kat,” he said gently. “I am bound to that oath until death. You and I both knew it was not going to be sunshine and roses.” He sighed.
Katerina looked up at him, and asked him the same question she had on the pier in Southshore, all those years ago. “Do you think it will ever be over, Eran?”
He had not answered that question back then. He had asked it himself for thirty years, and never found an answer. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I often say that I fight these wars so that others don’t have to… so that Donal doesn’t have to replace me someday in the ranks. I said the other night that when he comes of age, I hope the worst he has to deal with is fighting off bandits. But… I’m not so sure.” His jaw tightened. “I’m glad I decided to stay here, though, rather than run out to the Vale and Uldum. I saw plenty of what the Old Gods were capable of in Northrend and during the Cataclysm. I wasn’t going to subject him to that.”
“And what about Sylvanas? Is she still out there?”
“So far as we know… we’ll have to deal with her next, I think. Now that the whole ‘Black Empire’ business is more or less done. What happened at Orgrimmar… we always knew she was dangerous. That proved just how much.”
Katerina looked over, as Adesse (with some… dubious assistance from Donal) was showing Madeline around. “And he saw that?”
“And he also saw orcs and humans standing together against her?”
Eran’s eyebrows rose. “I’ve seen orcs and humans stand together against a lot of things, Kat. It never lasts. Even when there’s something worse out there - the Scourge, Deathwing, the Old Gods… it’s always while fighting each other. We make a truce to fight the bigger threat, then go right back at it. Thirty years of more of the same, no matter who tries to change it.”
Even through the chainmail, he could feel her grip on his arm. “You sound like you’ve given up hope.”
He shook his head. “No. If I had, I would indeed do what Taran suggests, and retire. But… I’m balancing it with what my experience tells me. I know that the world beyond the homestead is not the dark and cruel place he likes to think it is. But I also know that there are dark and cruel forces in it. That is why I do what I do - for the kingdom and the Alliance… and for Donal.”