I Dreamed a Dream, and I Thought It True

He had seen this coming when they had decided not to simply hide out here, but to settle, to build their cities and temples… Shattrath, Karabor, Telmor, Tuurem, Sha’naar, Telaar… he did not question why the Prophet allowed this, but he felt that they were trying to rebuild Argus. That the long eons had made some of their memories of the old world, and why they had fled, dim… and that perhaps Kil’jaeden and his hunters had forgotten about them.

He knew they hadn’t. He was sure Velen did, too.

Every world they had visited and tried to hide on - Fanlin’Dreskor sprang readily to mind - had been burned by the Legion as they had been forced to escape. Why did they think this would be different? Their voyage had no destination. It couldn’t. Only the journey mattered… and it was time to return to the Beyond. And yet somehow he knew that would not come… at least, not yet.

So it was on this day, he rose early as usual and headed to the Terrace of Light at the center of Shattrath, that he heard the sounds from outside the city gates… saw a shimmering as a hidden army suddenly became visible… and recognized a terrible, and familiar, visage guiding the army forward to destroy the draenei. Just as they had every time before, the Deceiver and his man’ari had found them.

He had known it would come to this when the relations with the orcs went rapidly from mutual distance to bloody war as quickly as it had. The visions had also warned that the orcs knew not what they were doing… and so the appearance of the red-skinned monster who had once been a respected leader of the eredar, and was now a slave of the Dark Titan, did not entirely surprise him.

Kil’jaeden spoke words he could not hear from this distance… and the Horde pushed forward, an unending tide that would sweep all in their path, and Light help him, he could not bring himself to move as the wave approached…

He awoke with a start, his white hair plastered to his head with sweat. He looked around for a moment and saw that he was in the room of the boarding house in Stormwind where he often stayed whenever he was in the Alliance capital.

It had been more than thirty years since that day - a drop in the bucket, as the humans would call it, for one who had lived as long as he… but over those decades, he only had that dream, that memory, whenever something terrible was about to happen, just as had happened in Shattrath during the rise of the “Old” Horde.

He had dreamed the Dream (the capital had been added after a time) just before Draenor had been shattered by Ner’zhul’s reckless magic, turning it into Outland. The Dream had come again when Velen led them in the raid on the Exodar, somehow knowing that - for all that they would escape their dying world - the trip would cost them. Then it had come before the Wrathgate, that terrible loss in the frozen lands of Northrend, and then again before Deathwing had risen from Deepholm to herald the Cataclysm.

He had dreamed the Dream before the rising of the Sha of Pride in Pandaria that devastated the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, before the alteration of the Dark Portal that led to a twisted parody of the Draenor he had known, before the invasion of the Legion, before the voyage to Argus… and before Sargeras’ spite had left a wound in Azeroth. He had dreamed the Dream before the massacre at Teldrassil, before the slaughter-pen in Tirisfal, before the murder of the Zandalari king in Dazar’alor, before the rise of Nazjatar… before Ny’alotha.

Now the Dream had come again.

While he was nowhere near the skill and power of the seemingly ageless Prophet, he occasionally received glimpses into the future, and had learned to trust his instincts whenever the Dream came.

It meant trouble. It always meant trouble.

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He sat in their home in Zuldazar, listening to them talk about what they had heard Zul say. Zandalar was doomed, he had said, and he was leading them beyond the sea to rally the other troll nations, those ravaged by the Scourge, or the elves, or the humans, or anyone else… and combine them together under the name of Zandalar to conquer Azeroth.

His father, Vim’bal, was a priest of Rezan, who had served in Rastakhan’s royal court. His mother, Zimala, was a priestess of Hir’eek, who had ritually gouged out her own eyeballs as a gesture of devotion to the Lord of the Midnight Sky. Their family lines had been priests since the days of the First King, and that was not likely to change for him. He had always looked up to them, their devotion to their separate Loa not at all harming their devotion to one another. But today, he looked upon them with disdain.

He laughed at them.

“Listen to yaselves,” he said with a sneer. “A little water risin’ in da Bazaar, and all of a sudden ya be t’rowin’ yaselves at da feet of Rastakhan’s pet magician?”

“Do not speak of da Prophet dat way, Zulimbasha,” Vim’bal said sternly. “He sees da future, and speaks da truth.”

“His version of it,” Zulimbasha countered, waving a dismissive hand. “Zandalar be our home. Da idea of makin’ a new Zandalari Empire anywhere other than Zandalar be a joke, and ya be fools for listenin’ ta such swill. I hear better stories comin’ from da sailors in da fleet.”

“Please, do not judge us harshly,” Zimala said, looking at him with empty sockets. “We only hope ta find a better future for da Zandalari, and for all troll-kind.”

“By followin’ Zul across da sea ta Loa-know-where?” Zulimbasha snorted as he stood to leave.

“And where do ya t’ink ya be goin’, boy?” Vim’bal demanded.

“Away from ya and ya crazy talk,” Zulimbasha replied with a sneer. “Ta think I ever thought kindly of either of ya… listenin’ ta ya quiverin’ like children just because dere be somet’ing comin’ ta wipe us all out. Ooh. Ahh.” He laughed again. “Death cannot be escaped, fa’da,” he said, not sure what was guiding him to speak so. “And if it be time ta die, I choose ta die here, in Zandalar, as a Zandalari. Not as a snivelin’ baby.”

“Zulimbasha…” His mother’s voice was pleading.

He waved her off, even if he knew she couldn’t see it. “If ya wanna follow Zul on his fool’s errand, ya be welcome ta do so. Zandalar be our home, and I be proud ta call it so… even if da doomsayin’ ya call ‘truth’ be indeed so, and Zandalar be wiped off da face of Azeroth.” He shrugged. “Don’t matter ta me none. Either way… I expect ta never see either of ya again.” His gaze and his tone were icy as he added, “And I hope I never do.”

With that, he turned and walked away.

Zulimbasha did not wake in a cold sweat, but rather from a deep meditation. He was seated in the courtyard of the Necropolis in Nazmir, the temple of his Loa, Bwonsamdi.

This old memory often came to him in times of trouble as well, the day he had decided to swear himself to the Lord of the Dead. He had been experiencing it almost daily in his meditations ever since the campaign against the Black Empire had begun. He was all but certain that the recent spate of grave robberies, bodies not being claimed from battlefields, and “new recruits” in the Knights of the Ebon Blade - not to mention Sylvanas out there, lurking like an assassin in the night - were all connected to something horrible.

But for the life (or death) of him, he couldn’t figure out what. He had meditated each day seeking answers, and each day, it was that same damn memory.

He rose, working out a kink in his left knee as he did. “Tomorrow be another day,” he said aloud to himself, chuckling at the irony. That was something the death knights liked to say. And in that, if nothing else, they were right…

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Back when they were living on Draenor, the Horde had run out of people to kill, and so to feed their bloodlust (or get over sheer boredom), they started killing each other. Picking on the whining Frostwolves became something of a popular pasttime, but the novelty hadn’t lasted. The opening of the Dark Portal had provided them an escape. So had the bloody war they had fought against Stormwind.

Now here they were a few years later - and they didn’t even have the energy left to them to fight amongst themselves. They just sat around like pigs in slop, and most didn’t see any problem with it. Some among them did, however…

Unlike the others, who tended to huddle together in the open stockade, he sat alone, hisses of pain through clenched teeth the only signs he showed of what he was feeling. Ever since that day where their people - except for the weakling Frostwolves and that backstabbing prig Doomhammer, among others - had drank from the Cup of Unity at the summit of Kil’jaeden’s Throne, they had fought with the strength and sheer murderous delight of wild demons. For those like him, it had been sweeter, for they were the elite, the true power behind Warchief Blackhand and the other chieftains. But now all of them, warlocks and warriors alike, were locked away in these camps, to live like cattle.

As one versed in these matters himself, he knew what caused it… and for those like him, it was even worse, even more painful, for his powers were also bound to the “blood curse”. But there was one advantage he had, at least - he had been forced to hide his powers for years, to avoid being murdered by Doomhammer and his new elite, and so had become quite good at hiding things from others. But it was clear that the once mighty orcs were suffering from withdrawal, an after-effect of the blood of Mannoroth they had drunk on that dark summit long ago. They had no war to fight, and soon began to lack even the will to fight amongst each other. They were left to wallow in lethargy, and wait for death.

Until recently…

He had been hearing rumors - the camp guards thought them stupid, unable to understand - that a new Horde had arisen and begun liberating the camps. It certainly seemed like the humans believed these rumors, as a whole battalion of knights - bearing the black falcon sigil of the hated overseer of the camps, Aedelas Blackmoore, on their shields - had arrived not long ago, and were waiting. What surprised him was that the prisoners believed too, and were ready to help those who had come to free them. He simply snorted, not one to believe in such tales anymore.

As he sat in his corner, hissing in pain… he looked up, his face brightened by the full moons’ light, as he heard the gates open, and the knights made their way out to meet a great host coming for them. With his vision being better than any human’s, he saw an army of orcs descending, and swore he could make out… black plate armor, trimmed with brass.

The rumors were true. Doomhammer had returned… and was setting them free. But… what would that mean for him? Would that mean more hiding, more lying to both himself and others… or would he, at last, give up this charade?

Remembering his liberation from that disgusting camp in the Arathi Highlands, which had later been settled as “Hammerfall”, was one of the few omens he got nowadays. He had been a shaman long ago, much like his Mag’har “ghost” from the Iron Horde’s version of Draenor was today; even though he had been but a fledgling when the clans made war on the draenei, he remembered the visions granted him by the spirits. He had renounced that when warlock magic was introduced to the clans by Gul’dan, and he had not looked back since.

But sometimes, old habits truly did die hard, and he often experienced what one could call visions, or waking dreams - often replaying old memories. This particular memory had come up only twice since. The first had been just before he had been killed by Saavedro in Icecrown during the war with the Lich King. The second had been just before killing Saavedro - or Father Shankolin, as he had become - in Nazjatar, bringing his trapped soul to the Necropolis to be fed to Bwonsamdi. Both times had heralded something: The first being his death, leaving him imprisoned in that soulstone until the Black Harvest was able to obtain it and release him, and the second being the rise of N’Zoth. And now, tonight, made it three - and he wondered what lay ahead now.

To his distinct lack of surprise, Rakeri Sputterspark’s intended race war had come to nothing. Most of the professor’s schemes did. But he was useful at deflecting attention - not that Rakeri would ever realize he was being used, rather than being the user… for a brilliant mind like that, he could be incredibly dense - and deflection had been something he had made into an artform for nearly thirty years.

“Lord Corruptor.” He looked up, seeing a slender figure in dark vestments approach. “She has answered. She awaits you at the requested place.”

The Corruptor smiled slightly and dismissed the messenger with a nod, before rising. She had surprised and impressed him, so much so that he had taken her - still technically a neophyte - with him to Argus for that particular endgame. She had been lost in researches since, but was glad to have her on hand… especially if this omen led to something big. It usually did.

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Back when they were living on Draenor, the Mag’har - those who had rejected Gul’dan’s dark bargain both before and after the rise and fall of the Iron Horde - had lived in relative peace with the draenei, having worked together to stop Gul’dan’s plans and prevent the Burning Legion from destroying all of their world. Those early years of peace had been good years. But he had seen they would not last.

The draenei inexplicably began to change. Always a people devoted to their Light, they had become blind zealots. Without the constant threat of demons and fel-tainted traitors, they had turned their attentions to their erstwhile allies. The land had begun to wither and die. The draenei blamed the Mag’har, believing that only embracing the Light would save both them and their world. The Mag’har believed it was the draenei and their fanaticism.

And so, the war was on.

For more than twenty years, he had crossed weapons with a particularly dense example of the draenei’s zealous stupidity. He was a former guardsman of the city of Telmor near Auchindoun, now commander of a battalion of not just draenei, but ogres and orcish traitors who had embraced the Light and the foul naaru as their new gods. Yrel had followers among all walks of life - what was left of it - on Draenor, and never hesitated to show it off.

But the exarch didn’t have his battalion today. Just himself, his armor, and his hammer. And now, he had his opponent. His golden eyes glared from the eye slits in his helmet. “I have come, as you wished. Arm yourself, and let us be done with this.”

He was kneeling, hand on the dusty ground. On hearing the voice of his nemesis, he rose. “Exarch Velenkayn,” he greeted him, inclining his head. “I did not think you had the stomach to face me one-to-one.” He picked up his hammer. “But those spirits I can still hear told me you would… and here you are.”

Despite his earlier tone of challenge, Velenkayn surprised him by saying, “We do not have to do this, Urgan.”

Urgan grinned savagely. “Of course we do. You will not act without the permission of your precious Light… and I will not bow before it. As you say, let us be done with this.”

“So be it,” Velenkayn replied, and charged forward. No battle cries, no screaming of oaths - just two old foes in one final battle, to the death. The exarch would stay too close to him to call upon the elements (those that would still answer, anyway), but Urgan had the advantage of lighter armor, and was quick on his feet in spite of his somewhat advanced years. His white braids swayed with his movements as he ducked from the swinging of Velenkayn’s hammer, able to get a few strikes of his own in - noticing the occasional cracks starting to form in the stone head of the weapon even as the dents began to show in the armor itself.

Seeing an opportunity, Urgan caught the handle of Velenkayn’s hammer, just under the crystalline head, with the handle of his own, then twisted the weapon and pulled down, tearing the hammer from Velenkayn’s hands. Disarmed, the exarch decided to take advantage of his heavier armor, grabbing the handle of the hammer. The wood groaned in protest under the metal grip. The draenei was nearly a foot taller than he was… and that gave him an idea. He raised the hammer up over his head - up nearly to Velenkayn’s shoulders - and then swung himself forward, feet first, into Velenkayn’s chest. The exarch crashed to the ground in a clatter of armor.

Knees aching from the impact, Urgan was nonetheless able to find his footing, and picked up the hammer where it had fallen. Velenkayn was much quicker in recovery that he had thought with all that plate, and backhanded him savagely across the face, dazing him. Shaking his head to clear it, Urgan saw the exarch pick up his hammer and swing, catching him in the chest. He slammed against a nearby tree and collapsed to the ground.

Velenkayn raised his hammer to crush Urgan’s skull like a ripe melon, but Urgan kicked with his metal-reinforced boot into the exarch’s armored kneecap. It nearly numbled his entire leg, but it had the effect; Velenkayn’s knee buckled, and he fell forward. Staggering to his feet, Urgan swung the hammer with such force that the whole stone head and upper part of the handle shattered against the heavy plate. Velenkayn’s head jerked to the side, and Urgan could see his blood - glowing much like his eyes - running from under his helmet’s visor. Dazed by the blow, the exarch nonetheless managed to rise. Using the sharpened tip of the broken handle like a lance, he rammed it through a weak point in Velenkayn’s breastplate.

Velenkayn sank to his knees, blood leaving his body in rivers. Urgan pulled the helmet from the exarch’s head, preferring to see the face of his enemy. The expression on the exarch’s bruised face was one of pure hate, a far cry from the offer of mercy he had given at the beginning… and he spat blood at the farseer’s feet. Grasping the sides of the draenei’s head, Urgan twisted savagely, snapping Velenkayn’s neck.

As the exarch fell dead, Urgan sank to his knees, his leg and his upper body feeling like they were on fire. As his hands touched the earth, he gasped aloud, as his mind began to fill with images: A sword the size of a mountain protruding from the earth, a city of gold rising from the jungle, a city of metal rising from the red dust, and a tower reflected in ice and fire…

…and red eyes staring from a green face… a face that was… is…

Urgan’s eyes opened, and once more he found himself in the Spirits Be With You tavern in Dazar’alor - the “city of gold” he had seen in that vision years before on Draenor. He had made it a point to avoid Orgrimmar in the days since the mak’gora between Saurfang and Sylvanas, and found himself more at home here than he did other orcs, Mag’har or otherwise.

Part of that had to do with the burning red eyes from the green face - the face that was his own. The Corruptor, they called him. He had seen the warlock here in Zuldazar from time to time, and he was sure the warlock had seen him. Certainly they both knew the other existed, and yet there was this… polite distance. It unsettled him somewhat.

Lately, he had begun to see the vision of the reflected tower again in his meditations, and knew that it would be something that he would encounter soon enough. The other things he had seen had proven to be true - the sword, sticking out from Silithus; the city of gold, here; the city of metal, Orgrimmar, in the red dust of Durotar. No doubt this tower was somewhere, too.

He rose from the floor, hands resting on the hafts of his axes - one with a blade of metal, the other of crystal. They had been forged from the broken armor and salvaged warhammer of Exarch Velenkayn, taken as trophies when he had killed the draenei fanatic in Gorgrond. He had carried them here to Azeroth when the Mag’har fled Draenor with Eitrigg, just as the Lightbound were about to overrun them, and he had used them to great effect in the recent war.

They were about to get more use soon. The visions of the spirits told him so… and after all he had seen so far, he knew not to doubt them.

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Saavedar. It had been named in honor of an honorable man, one whose flesh and spirit had ultimately been corrupted by the very powers he had once fought against. He had been but a child of five when he last saw this place. For him, that had been a century ago. On Draenor, it had been more than thirty years. On Azeroth, only a year or so.

Time is whimsical, he mused. Much like fate, in many ways.

Hearing the crunching of the snow beneath his boots, he looked around the long-abandoned fortress, which had been destroyed by the Modas il Toralar when he had been a boy, when the flows of time and magic still connected this strange, alternate world to Azeroth… when his father had tried to hide here from the petty vengeance of Trenetir Moradinel. For all the good it had done…

He remembered screaming, “Ann’da! Ann’da!” when the old Forsaken mage had taken him through the portal, intending to flee to Thunder Bluff, a place the Modas did not (by choice or by threat, he did not know) operate in… but instead, ended up lost in the Twisting Nether for a hundred years. Years that allowed him to grow into a man, in a place where there was no room for children.

The scene shifted around him, another inaccessable battlefield… one with a chill that bit far deeper than simple cold. It was a place he remembered well: The void-spattered ruins of Mac’Aree on Argus. He had returned to Azeroth at the start of a new war with the Legion, and - having been trained in the Light - had joined the Knights of the Silver Hand. His father had been raised in undeath by the Ebon Blade, and was known to them as the “Crimson King”. It was here that his life had taken a dramatic turn… his kidnapping by the Dark Father, Sekhesmet of Stratholme, and the pollution of his body and soul.

The scene around him shifted again, to the plagued woods outside the leveled village of Brill. Plaguemist and smoke from the burning town hung in the air behind him, but before him, a cleansing fire took the bodies of two proud men who had fallen in the horrific slaughter, victims of Sekhesmet and of his on-and-off ally, the Corruptor… the Crimson King, and the one known as “Shadowhowl”. The daughter of the latter stood next to him, and together they watched their fathers’ corpses burn.

Once more, the scene changed, but this time it came in flashes, places he was not familiar with. A land of green fields and shining temples. An enchanted forest shrouded in twilight. A bleak land of rock and bone. A dark realm of great spires, with a mighty castle in the distance. A great swirling realm of death and pain. And in that last, he saw faces writhing in agony, and though he had not seen some of these faces before, somehow he knew their names. Sekhesmet of Stratholme. Saavedro of Stratholme, also called Father Shankolin Blightpath. Alieth Taldir. Teren Skyfire, also called Poquelin the Accursed. Eidan Zherron. Tavira Nightswan. Lianis Darkfrost. Valya Tiren. Galen Tavener. Kegren Dawntotem. Valkia’jin. Eliphas Aximand.

Taeril’hane Ketiron.

He let out a gasp of horrified recognition on seeing him. His father was here. Trapped in a realm of torment, screaming one last scream… forever…

Ord’taeril Ketiron let out a brief, piercing shriek of terror as he awakened, the force of what he had seen causing him to recoil until he found solid support on a wall behind him. His once-white hair, now tinged gray by the void powers that had altered his body, was soaked in sweat, as was his purplish-gray face. He was breathing heavily, as if he had climbed a mountain hand-by-hand and step-by-step without stopping.

He looked around and saw that he was sitting in the courtyard of the Temple of Five Dawns on the Wandering Isle, and that it was night. He had been here for months, attempting to keep his distance from the pure, unadulterated void embodied in the last of the Old Gods. But now N’Zoth was gone, or so they said. Yet here he had remained - trying to find himself, he had said when he left.

His mentor, Lorewalker Zhangren Puretide, had gone home to Pandaria, both to help keep the peace in the wake of the horrific attacks by the Black Empire and its minions… and to seek his own solace in the wake of the desecration of his brother, Zhaoren, by the Ebon Blade. As someone whose slain loved one had been similarly defiled, Ord’taeril understood that all too well. And so he had remained here alone, with only the temple’s keepers and the patrons of the village tavern down the steps for company.

In meditation, his mind went back to war and death. Draenor. Argus. Tirisfal. Zandalar. Nazjatar. But this was new. This was something else. Something terrible. Something… unknown.

But unknown for how long?

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?”

“He did.”

“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.”