“Ye said I could be the one tae set the bickerin’ in this city straight. That’s what I’m about tae do.”
“How?” Muradin asked.
“By breakin’ the chain, lad.”
Muradin’s brows furrowed in confusion. But eventually, it seemed to Kurdran as if the Bronzebeard had realized what was about to happen. Muradin walked toward the crowd and bellowed, “Let him say his piece!”
When the noise died down, Kurdran continued. “Fer many years I was stuck on Outland, never knowin’ wi’ any certainty whether or nae I’d return home. Durin’ all that time, this here piece o’ iron gave me an’ the lads and lasses at me side hope. It reminded us o’ who we were an’ what we had tae fight fer!”
Kurdran glanced up at the heirloom. The night before, while he had knelt next to Sky’ree’s egg, he had finally realized what the scepter was—a piece of old iron. Tempered metal that had set dwarf against dwarf and instilled fear and hate in Kurdran’s own heart. He had been no different from the mindless, livid mob standing before him now. A dwarf afraid of the unknown, unwilling to move forward if it meant giving up something familiar. But he had done so on Outland. He had given up his title as high thane to Falstad. He had given up years of his life in Aerie Peak to secure a better future for his kind. The scepter, by comparison, was incredibly trivial.
“But this isn’t Outland,” Kurdran continued, “an’ this isn’t the Ironforge o’ our ancestors. So why are we tryin’ tae put this hammer together tae make it that way? This is a new Ironforge. It will nae ever be the one o’ the past, an’ reforgin’ Modimus’s hammer surely will nae change that!” Kurdran slammed the Wildhammer heirloom onto the anvil. “Me an’ me clan will have nae part in seein’ this era begin by chainin’ ourselves tae a hammer!”
The crowd’s movements became erratic. In the shadows of the Great Forge the dwarves looked like a single organism, expanding and contracting, a moment away from bursting apart at the seams.
“He’s goin’ tae take the piece back!”
“The Wildhammers are showin’ their true colors!”
Without another word, Kurdran drew the stormhammer from his back. In one swift movement, he raised the weapon high and drove it down onto the scepter in a flash of light. The resulting thunderclap made Kurdran’s ears ring, despite his having used the hammer for decades. The heirloom exploded in a shower of iron shards.
The dwarves in the crowd froze in sudden bewilderment. Confusion rippled across their taut faces.
“The new Ironforge begins here. Ask yerselves, do ye want tae start it by puttin’ this hammer back together so that one day it can be broken again? The Wildhammers have chosen tae take a step forward, not back. Who among ye is wi’ us?”
As Kurdran turned and extended his stormhammer to the other council members, he was surprised to find Muradin already marching to the anvil.
“The Bronzebeards are!” Muradin shouted, and he grasped the stormhammer with one hand.
In unison Muradin and Kurdran looked to Moira, as did the entire gathering in the Great Forge. She stood alone.
The Ironforge heiress glanced around as if she were searching for some escape. As the silence in the room dragged on, she finally moved toward the anvil in awkward steps, as though her body and mind were working against each other. With her eyes locked on Kurdran, she placed her hand above Muradin’s on the stormhammer handle.
With his free hand, Kurdran moved the Bronzebeard hammerhead and the Dark Iron gem to the center of the enormous anvil. As one, the council members drove Kurdran’s weapon down. Another thunderclap sounded, and the remaining artifacts fractured into pieces. With them, so too did the lie.
Afterward, the three dwarves stood at the anvil, each still with a hand on the stormhammer, holding it high. The crowd gave applause that soon turned to cheers. All the while, Moira glared at Kurdran as though she were expecting him to say something to her. He said nothing.
By the following week, the tension among the clans had become a smoldering coal; it was still present, but the threat of violence seemed distant. Kurdran was on his second pint of ale in the Stonefire Tavern, sitting alone at a table in a corner of the establishment. His solitude, however, was not born out of anger or guilt. He was waiting for someone with nervous anticipation.
If he doesnae come, Kurdran thought, can I blame him?
As if in answer to the silent question, Falstad Wildhammer entered the tavern, his red hair pulled back in a ponytail much like Kurdran’s. He stopped in the doorway, eyes searching the dimly lit room until he found Kurdran. Without a smile or nod, Falstad strode toward Kurdran’s table and took a seat.
“Good tae see ye, lad,” Kurdran said.
“And ye as well,” Falstad replied in an even tone.
A moment of uncomfortable silence passed. Kurdran had called Falstad to Ironforge shortly after the destruction of the Wildhammer scepter, not knowing how his friend would react to the summons. Now that Falstad was in the city, Kurdran was both relieved and unsure.
“Ye dinna need tae do this. Ye have more right tae be on this council than I do,” Falstad said.
“Nay,” Kurdran replied. “Ye’ve been high thane o’ the Wildhammers fer twenty years. Only thing that’s changed o’ late is a thick-headed dwarf thinkin’ he could do the job better than ye….”
“I spoke tae Eli a moment ago. It seems ye’ve made yer mark on Ironforge already.”
“All I did was clean up a mess I made meself. A mess that wouldna have even happened if ye had been here.”
Falstad stared hard at Kurdran, his lips pursed. Kurdran steeled himself, expecting his friend to berate him for his arrogance or even gloat over the unrest he had caused in Ironforge.
“If ye will nae do it fer me,” Kurdran said with sudden urgency, “then take yer place on this council fer the good o’ the clan.”
Falstad leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed, his eyes never leaving Kurdran.
“So ye expect me tae forgive ye and join the council… when ye dinna even have a fresh pint waitin’ on the table?” Falstad asked, and a toothy grin stretched across his face.
Kurdran let out a hearty laugh, feeling as though a great weight had been taken off of his shoulders. In that moment he recognized the immense wisdom and capacity for forgiveness that Falstad possessed. They were traits that would lead the Wildhammer clan to great things, even amid the uncertainty brought about by the formation of the council.
After Kurdran had ordered a pint for Falstad, the two dwarves raised their mugs.
“Fer the council,” Falstad said.
“Fer the high thane o’ the Wildhammers,” Kurdran replied.
“Fer Sky’ree.” Falstad lowered his mug to his mouth before Kurdran could offer another toast. No doubt, Eli had told Falstad about Sky’ree’s death. Kurdran appreciated the brevity of the remembrance, for he knew, as Falstad and other gryphon riders did, that lengthy condolences would do nothing to soothe the pain that came with losing a friend like Sky’ree.
Falstad set his mug down on the table with a hollow thud and asked, “So what will ye do now, then?”
“I might journey down tae Stormwind. I’ve had good experiences wi’ humans in me past and would like tae meet this King Varian. And… I hear there’s a statue in honor o’ me death in Outland right at the city’s gates.” Kurdran grinned.
“Aye… I wrote the placard. Was quite a task tryin’ tae find somethin’ good tae say,” Falstad quipped with a chuckle.
As the night wore on, other dwarves joined Kurdran and Falstad at their table. They talked of the great political changes occurring throughout the kingdoms of Azeroth as well as the natural calamities that had reshaped the world following the Cataclysm. Among the topics that interested Kurdran most was a discussion of the scattered Wildhammer dwarves of the Twilight Highlands. Fiercely independent, they had long remained free of governance by Aerie Peak. Recently, though, word had come that something dark had been taking root among the green hills of the northern lands.
When the dwarves turned to other topics, Kurdran’s mind wandered. A week ago he would have been concerned that relinquishing his place on the council would diminish his strength in the eyes of his clan. Today, that mattered little. There was something in making the sacrifice, something in having the will to forgo his personal desires for the good of his people, that filled Kurdran with fire. It was the same fire that had driven him to Outland and had allowed him to break the Wildhammer scepter. His destiny wasn’t in Ironforge, nor was it in sitting idly in Aerie Peak. It was here, and it was there: a life guided by the winds. In that unpredictability was the strength to face any challenge, to stand firm against insurmountable odds and fight for the bleakest of hopes. That was the will of a Wildhammer.
For the first time since he had come to the city—in fact, since he had returned from Outland—he felt free, as if he were flying among the clouds with Sky’ree. In his mind’s eye, he was. Kurdran was with the gryphon’s spirit, soaring in a cloudless blue expanse that seemed infinite in scope. Up ahead was something indecipherable, shimmering like a mirage. In his heart he knew that it was peace for Aerie Peak and all Wildhammers. Whether it would take another day, week, or ten years to reach was impossible to predict—and foolish to worry over. With resolve and determination, he gave Sky’ree a firm pat on her neck and let the winds guide them toward the horizon.