“I’ll not be part o’ this lie.”
Moira gracefully ascended the ramp. “You remind me of Dagran clutching one of his toys for dear life and throwing a tantrum when I try to take it from him.”
“Ye never understood what this meant tae me… an’ ye never will.”
The Ironforge heiress strolled over to Kurdran’s throne and looked it up and down.
“I’m still puzzled as to why you ever came here,” Moira said. “You and your clan don’t belong in Ironforge. Nor do you want to be here, it seems.”
“I was asked tae come.”
“Not by me.”
It was true. When Moira had arrived in Ironforge with her Dark Irons, she had effectively taken the city hostage. One of the visitors trapped within had been Prince Anduin of Stormwind. In reaction, his father, King Varian, had accompanied a group of SI:7 assassins into Ironforge, intent on killing Moira for her misdeeds. Ultimately, he had spared her, but he had resolved to create the Council of Three Hammers to maintain peace. In doing so, Varian had named Falstad as the representative of the Wildhammer clan.
For a moment the two dwarves simply stared at each other, until Moira broke the silence. “I wonder how it feels for a dwarf like you, who has won so many battles, to be defeated.”
“What do ye mean?”
Moira set Dagran down near Muradin’s throne, and the toddler climbed up onto the stone seat, giggling and oblivious to the conversation taking place.
“It must be a strange and terrible feeling.”
“What are ye talkin’ about?” Kurdran asked with growing agitation.
A smile crept onto Moira’s face. It was the same practiced grin that Kurdran had seen countless times, but in the current situation, there was something sinister to it. A cold realization began dawning on him.
“I was concerned when you joined the council. You were a dwarf of iron will, strength, and resolve who had sacrificed everything to protect our world. But when finally you arrived, I saw how you clung so tightly to that old piece of iron. It was a strange sight… as though you had somehow put all of your pride into that single object.”
Kurdran barely heard Moira’s words. His thoughts were racing. The strange rumors about the Wildhammers. The steady escalation of tension brought about because of the falsified parchment found in the library. Even Moira’s defense of his clan. All of it had painted the Wildhammers as nonconformists and methodically eaten away at their reputation. As a result, attention had shifted from Ironforge’s usual object of animosity: the Dark Irons.
The simplicity of it all filled Kurdran with the terrible sense of ineptitude that came with being bested by an enemy not your equal. This was the sort of devious behavior he had expected of Moira, but he hadn’t trusted his intuition.
“So was it ye who put the parchment in the library? Or did ye have that rat Drukan do it fer ye?”
The Ironforge heiress simply smirked and patted Dagran’s back, ignoring the question. “I’ve stationed guards at the library. I can assure you something like this will not happen again.”
“Answer me!” Kurdran roared, drawing his stormhammer and pointing it at Moira.
Moira eyed him evenly, unfazed. “You’ve slain dragons with that hammer, correct? Countless orcs as well, I assume? I can only imagine what it would do to me.”
“It’d crack yer skull wide open before ye even made a sound.”
Moira stifled a laugh. “And with my blood still warm on this floor, my people would rise up and burn this city. You and your brutish clan would be the first cast into the fire.”
“If ye had even one ounce o’ honor in ye, ye’d admit what ye did.”
“It’s over, Kurdran. You’re a dwarf of action, not words. Alas, in Ironforge words are all that matter. This isn’t Outland, where victory is measured in the amount of blood you spill. It’s measured in the number of hearts you win. And you have failed quite spectacularly at that. Perhaps Falstad would have been a more appropriate dwarf to represent your clan after all.”
“All this time ye’ve been blabberin’ on about unity,” Kurdran said, his grip tightening on the stormhammer. “Ye dinna even know what ye want.”
Moira’s face stiffened, and she struggled to keep smiling.
“I know exactly what I want,” Moira hissed. “You were never willing to extend a hand in peace to the Dark Irons. Your opinions were already fixed when you came here, clouded by old hatred.”
“So ye sacrificed me and me clan so the Dark Irons wouldna be treated like the scum they are?” Kurdran asked.
“I did what I did for the future. So that when my son inherits this throne, he will not rule over a city that treats him like a pariah due to the blood that flows through his veins.”
“If only Magni could see ye here. I can only imagine the pain he’d feel, watchin’ his degenerate trogg o’ a daughter tear down everythin’ he worked tae build.”
“Do not speak to me as if you know of my past, or Magni’s.” Moira was exploding with rage. “You and your clan are guests in this city. The sooner you leave, the better!” Moira unconsciously squeezed Dagran’s arm, and the toddler began to wail.
“I always expected that—" Kurdran stopped short. A terrible thought suddenly came to him. He took a step toward Moira, the stormhammer inches from her face. “Ye… ye killed Sky’ree. Ye sent yer dirty clan tae start that fire.”
“No,” Moira said with indignation, “do not accuse me of something that you are responsible for. I punished the Dark Irons who participated in the fight, but from what they told me, it was you who threw the first blow.”
Guilt welled up in Kurdran. Ever since the fire earlier that day, he had tried to forget that he could have prevented the brawl. His arm went slack, and he lowered the stormhammer.
“Take it and leave,” Moira said, eyeing the Wildhammer scepter. “Or don’t.”
She scooped Dagran into her arms and descended the ramp without looking back at Kurdran.
“We will commence with the reforging regardless. On the morrow it will be a Dark Iron who brings unity to the clans,” Moira said as she entered her private quarters, slamming the door behind her.
The truth in Moira’s words, in everything she had said, carried a terrible weight. The enemy Kurdran had longed to find had shown herself, but he could do nothing to fight her without endangering the entire city. He was as helpless as the crystalline statue that had been King Magni. All at once, the foreign feeling of defeat washed over him.
Sweat began pouring down his body. Every breath seemed filled with stagnant heat, not air. Kurdran shoved the scepter through an opening in his chestpiece near his arm. With the heirloom hidden, he rushed out of the room and toward the gates of Ironforge as the city’s stone walls closed in on him.
Kurdran inhaled the frigid air at Ironforge’s gates deeply. The sweat covering his body chilled in the cold night, and he shivered.
In the distance, through a curtain of snowfall, shapes illuminated by light from the open city gate were unloading crates from a cart. One of the silhouettes looked up in Kurdran’s direction. It trudged through the snow toward him.
It was Muradin.
“Been lookin’ fer ye, lad,” the Bronzebeard said as he brushed snow from his plated shoulders. “I canna say how sorry I was tae hear about Sky’ree. She died like she lived, free o’ fear. Fightin’ fer what was most important… her people. Her future.”
“Her future died wi’ her,” Kurdran said. He let out a long sigh, his breath white in the cold.
Muradin stood for a moment, silent. “Aye… but I’d rather die fer me kin in a fight I know I canna win than not fight at all. I suppose ye wouldna understand much about that, though, would ye?”
Kurdran’s eyes narrowed at the affront, but he felt weak after the encounter with Moira. “I’ve been fightin’ fer me kin since the day I set foot in Ironforge.”
“Dinna mistake stubbornness fer bravery. They ain’t the same,” Muradin replied.