It seemed to be a theme in her life lately. She ran, huffing and panting, trying to make the Deeprun Tram only to have it pull away from under her feet. Once she was finally on she nervously adjusted the black dress she'd bought with her first week's wages, trying in vain to get it to fall across her hips right, like it would on a Night Elf girl. It was a lost cause.
But then, as she stepped off and into Stormwind she smiled. It didn't matter to her that she was going to be late to her job at the Wisps and Spirits...again. She was usually so late that most of the clientele had already gone home, and it was just her and him left to clean up. Then they could be alone together. It was enough to make her forget that she could never find anything at the Auction House that would actually fit her thighs for twice the price that a twiggy Human would pay.
Flamebeard. Draeg Flamebeard. She didn't think about running, or being late, or her clothes. She thought about awkward smiles, standing under a starry sky and fingers running through her hair.
As she rounded the last corner just on a whim she decided to check the mailbox stationed right outside the tavern. Inside there was a single envelope with "Saraich" written on it in a strong and steady hand.
Her heart dropped. She recognized it instantly for what it was. With a shaking hand she removed it and read the letter inside. She read it again. She didn't even realize that the reason that she could hardly see it after a while was that her eyes were full of tears.
"No...how did they...wha'..." she said quietly, softly.
We cannot even express how angry and disappointed we are in you, that you chose to be so selfish as to run away and tarnish the good name of the Spearhewers. You are lucky that we didn't send your brothers to retrieve you the very first night.
We have, however, made an arrangement for a compromise in order to salvage some part of this debacle you've caused. The marriage we went to great effort to secure for you with Gundirson Grimgut despite your well known obstinacy and refusal to know your place in tradition would have made us the largest weapons supplier above or below the ground. In everything lost, however, there is an opportunity.
We have arranged for a new marriage for you to Dalin Bronzebeard, the adopted son of Brann Bronzebeard. This will give our family name a place amongst the nobility at last, and since he is adopted he will not shun the daughter of a mere merchant. If you choose not to do this, however, and run away again like a spoiled child, that will truly be the last straw for us. The Spearhewer family will not tolerate such open betrayal. Your name will be stricken from the registries at the library of Ironforge. Your place will be removed at the table of honor in our household.
You will no longer be a Dwarf.
You will not be able to fight in the army, get a job, be allowed in Ironforge, buy from a Dwarvish merchant, be recognized in any official or unofficial way by the Dwarves. Do not doubt that we can make this happen. We shall not speak of your cousin, who had this very thing happen to him. If you'd like to ask him about the experience, though, we believe they buried him in a pauper's grave outside Stormwind after what he did by his own hand.
We hope to hear from you soon.
Drundil Spearhewer and Sons
Saraich staggered into the tavern, sobbing. There were only a few straggling patrons left, a Gnome named Tweck and a rowdy bunch of men at a table - Borim, Anderoth, Alyonn...
Alyonn. Saraich didn't even register him as she went by, despite her pursuit of him just a short time ago when he'd chosen a Tauren woman in disguise over her. She couldn't believe this was happening. How did they even FIND her? But then, that was a stupid question. Daughter of the owner of the largest Undermountain weapons manufactury, they were literally connected to almost everyone in all Azeroth.
She collapsed in the middle of the floor, sobbing. The men looked away uncomfortably and continued their drinking, but Tweck came over to her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"Who in th' NINE HELLS is DALIN BRONZEBEARD?" Saraich wailed.
Across the room, Borim stiffened. "...I've ne'er heard of 'im..." he said, backing away. "Oh hell...wha's he done now..." he muttered once he was a safe distance away.
"Ah'm ta be MARRIED ta him!" Saraich cried, and Borim's jaw dropped. "An' ah've never even MET him!"
Borim approached her carefully. "Actually...ye have," he said, and of course she had. As soon as he said it she remembered with perfect clarity. She'd told him she was terrible with names but he said she'd remember his. He'd bought her a drink, asked her to dance, and told her about Demons - how they were classified, what they did. He was an older Dwarf, boisterous and cranky, puffed up with his own self-estimation but with a twinkle in his eye.
But Flamebeard...oh, no...
There were footsteps, and it was him. Young and handsome, the model of Dwarfdom, his hunting cat Janx by his side. He immediately ran to her. He was so protective of her. "Wha's happened?" He bellowed. The Wisps and Spirits was living in perilous times with plots and counterplots swirling, the patrons and staff always in mortal peril it seemed these days. He was right to be worried.
Wordlessly sobbing, she handed over the letter. He stared at the wet and crumpled paper without understanding for a moment, then started to read...
After a while he set the letter down on the table and turned away. After a while longer, he swung wildly and swept a chair away, sending it crashing into the wall. A chair that nearly hit Redux, the Gnome who was all of the goodness of the soul of Jinx as she entered.
"Ah'll KILL Dalin where he STANDS before ah let him--" Flamebeard started to declare, and Borim quickly went scrambling for cover under the table. Alyonn and Anderoth's eyes widened and they stifled grins.
"Whoa...WHOA!" Redux shouted, holding her arms up. "Someone explain what's going on??"
Saraich's ears were buzzing. She couldn't make sense of any of what anyone was saying as more and more people arrived and were explained, repeatedly, what the predicament was. And then...boisterous laughter, coming from the table of the few remaining patrons. Saraich grimaced and leapt to her feet.
She strode over and swung her mace high, bringing it down with enough force to crack the table. "Are ye findin' this FUNNY, Alyonn?" She shouted at him to his complete perplexment. "Oh, ah know wha' you mus' be sayin' over here, about tha' DWARF girl! Oh, look a' her carry on! Wha' a PATHETIC thing!--"
By now Flamebeard and Redux and Erunamo were behind her, trying to pull her away as she advanced on Alyonn, her mace held high. Redux was practically hanging off of one of Saraich's long brown braids, all to no avail. But suddenly she broke off, retreating to sit on the floor. "Even a COW ge's ta be happy, bu' no' me..."
Redux came over and stroked Saraich's hair...and then suddenly her face lit up in a flash of revalation. "Sara...do you have a hat?"
"This is MAD," Saraich said, gaping in horror. Before her stood a Dwarven girl, the very picture of lovelyness. More importantly, other than her black hair and Saraich's brown, they could be twins. That is, until...
"COO BLIMEY, wha' is it ye want me to do again!?" Magpie screeched, her voice like a donkey kick to the head.
"YOU pretend to be HER. SHE pretends to be YOU," Erunamo said, grinning.
Saraich blinked in unmitigated horror. "An' WHO is supposed ta be fooled by this? Meh parents? Dalin? We HAVE met! FLAMEBEARD??"
"No, no, it'll be fine," Erunamo said reassuringly. "If nothing else, this'll just buy us time until the wedding to think of a better plan."
"Ah'm gettin' PAID fer this, roight!?" Magpie tittered, her voice jackhammering through the tavern. "But oi ain't MARRYIN' anyone...unless...Oood you say 'e was again? 'E gawrt MONEY?"
"Yes, yes, Measha will cover ALL your expenses," Erunamo said in a soothing fashion. The Elf was the personification of smoothness, especially where women were concerned.
Saraich held her head. "Flamebeard," she said to him, drawing close. "Can we go somewhere? Ah canna take all this anymore..."
"OI! What're yew lot sayin' over there!? Buy meh a DRINK!" Magpie yelled to the men still at the table in the tavern, telling stories and laughing.
Flamebeard nodded and asked Erunamo to cover security for the tavern while he was gone, and Saraich walked out the door, barely looking to see if he was following. Her mind worked better when she was moving. Running. She was always running.
It was time to stop.
"Flamebeard..." she said, taking his hands and then sobbing on his shoulder.
"It's all righ'..." he said. "Ah'd rather be an outcast wi' you than not have you. Ah'll follow ye wherever yeh go..."
Saraich squeezed her eyes shut. Now that she had stopped, it was perfectly clear what she had to do. "Come on," she said, walking again. She came to a stop outside an empty storefront near the tavern and started to go inside...
"Hey...HEY! Do either one of you have a bomb??" Erunamo shouted, coming skidding to a halt behind them.
"HELLO ERUNAMO," Saraich said with a steely glare.
"A bomb?" Flamebeard gawped. Shortly Crix the Rogue came riding up to them, wearing a dress for a change much to the notice and appreciation of Erunamo...
"Would ye STOP yer WOMANIZIN' fer jus' ONE MINUTE!?" Saraich yelled, pressing her hands to her temples. "Ah've had ENOUGH of this! Come on!" She grabbed Flamebeard's hand and very nearly dragged him out of the park.
She stared ahead, striding strong, determined. "Ah have a plan."
"Oh?" Flamebeard said as they entered the Cathedral district. "Are we...goin' to th' church?" He swallowed hard.
"No," she said, and continued on. Finally they came to a small house set aside for the Argent Dawn, still as of yet unused. Saraich entered, looked around. Crossed to the bearskin rug on the floor.
"This'll do..." she said, turning to face him.
Flamebeard turned a rather uncharacteristic shade of red. "Wha' are we..."
"Ah'll tell ye th' truth, Draeg Flamebeard. Ah love ye," Saraich said resolutely, undoing her hair from its long braids. She closed the distance between them and looked at him.
"Ah love ye too, Sara," he said, gazing back at her, and she kissed him hard.
He blinked for a moment, unused to her sudden ferocity and then returned her kiss just as hard.
Saraich sighed and laid her head on his shoulder.
"Ah love ye too much to let ye do this," she said, taking her mace and moving it behind his back.
"An' ah'll tell ye abou' meh family. We're not jus' good at makin' weapons...we're good at usin' 'em too."
She took her mace and hit him over the head with it, hard enough to knock him unconscious. He sank to the ground with hardly a sound and she regarded him, her eyes full of tears.
"Ah'm sorreh," she said, and walked away. She knew what had to be done.
Saraich wandered through Ironforge. If there was one place to start looking for a Dwarf, it was Ironforge. After a time she finally saw a mostly bald head with a topknot standing at the mailbox outside the bank.
"Ummm...Dalin?" She said, quietly, standing behind him.
"Wh--What??" Dalin exclaimed, whirling around crossbow in hand. Saraich stared at the weapon. Her Weaponmaking blood told her that it was a Mark 2, only a limited number were produced due to hair-trigger problems.
"Oh! Ah'm...well, ah'm Saraich Spearhewer..." she said nervously, holding her hands out.
"And?" Dalin said dismissively, relaxing.
Saraich tilted her head at him and looked at him, puzzled. "Did...did ye get a letter in th' mail, by any chance?"
"Oh, aye, I did," Dalin said. "I' was a base forgery."
"A what?" Saraich asked, partially because she just plain couldn't hear him over the hubub of the crowd. "Listen, can we go somewhere an' talk abou' this?"
"Cert'nly," Dalin said, and lead the way to a secluded storage room nearby.
"Hmm...dark an' spooky..." Saraich said, trying to get comfortable between a sack of oats and a barrel.
"Here, ah c'n help wi' tha'," Dalin said and produced a large torch, glowing green under its own arcane power. This rather did not help the "spooky" effect, as now everything was just green and cast rather disconcerting shadows.
"So, as ah was sayin', ah got a letter from meh family tha' said we were promised ta one another, ta be married," Saraich said, trying not to focus on the flickering light.
"Aye, so did I," Dalin said. "An' you know wha' th' problem wi' it was? It said th't Brann Bronzebeard ha' given 'is consent."
"An' he did'nt?" Saraich asked.
"Brann has been missin' fer some time now," Dalin said, musing. "An' there's another problem. Thi' is'na widely known, bu'...ah'm already married."
Saraich's eyes widened.
"Ah los' track of 'er durin' th' War, but she's still alive," Dalin's eye twitched. "No' dead a' ALL. Really!"
"All righ'..." Saraich said, edging away just a bit, "Bu' y'see ah have a problem. Even if't was a forgery, even if't was all a scheme by meh family, which i' probably is...they still have th' power ta put me into exile, an' worse, do th' same to someone ah care a lot abou'..."
"Magni can help wi' that," Dalin replied.
"You don' UNDERSTAN'!" Saraich exploded, getting to her feet. "They'll remove meh from th' REGISTRY! Even th' King has'na power over tha'!"
"I' can be done..." Dalin said, holding the torch out. The green light played over the crags in his face and he smiled disconcertingly. "For a price."
Saraich drew in a breath and drew back. "A price?"
Dalin's smile grew wider. "Razdan Baraz."
"A blood promise?" Saraich said, knowing her own Dwarvish language just as well as any other Dwarf.
"Would ye like ta know wha' Old Ironforge was like?" Dalin mused, turning the torch around. "Razdan Baraz...th' Hand of th' King. We are his will an' his power..."
Saraich was quiet, and then put her fists on her hips. "Ye KNOW, if yer so set on not marryin' me ye don' need ta go makin' up ghost stories in th' dark! Jus' say so!"
The chilling look that Dalin transfixed her with, however, was anything but light. "Razdan Baraz. It's th' only thing tha' can save you...an' him. It's tha', or exile."
In the dark, Saraich looked for guidance. Sadly, it offered none. "Wha' do ah have ta do?"
"Go to th' King. Plead yer case. If he accepts, you'll take The Oath," Dalin said, his voice losing just a touch of it's crazy edge and sounding a bit more sympathetic.
"Dalin...? Will ye come wi' me?" Saraich asked, meeting his eyes.
"A'course, lass," Dalin said. "It is meh duty."
Moments later, too quickly, they were at the throne and King Magni Bronzebeard stood, looking down on the Dwarf Priestess as she kneeled before him. She poured out her soul, explained about her family and their power, renounced them, and threw herself on his mercy. At length, Magni motioned for her to rise and nodded wordlessly to Dalin.
"He has accepted yer plea. It is time," Dalin said, taking her to a nearby dwelling. Inside was a simple room with a bed.
"Take off yer dress an' yer shirt," he said curtly.
Saraich blinked, looked at him, looked at the bed, and then looked back at Dalin again. "This was all jus' a plan ta get me NAKED!" She declared, but under Dalin's unwavering and utterly humorless gaze she quickly complied.
"Turn aroun'," he said, and gently brushed aside her braids.
And then he held the green torch aloft, declared "Razdan Baraz!" and pressed it to her back, searing her flesh with a brand. Saraich cried out in surprise and pain.
"You are now one of th' Hand," Dalin said, grimacing. "Thank ye...fer revivin' th' Promise."
Saraich summoned the will to heal herself. "I' won't heal," Dalin said. "Ye'll have it fer th' rest of yer days." She did manage, however, to close the wound and advance it to a large scar instead of an injury.
She slipped her shirt and dress on again without comment, her mind swimming. What had she just done? What did she agree to? What was she now a part of?
"Know this," Dalin said. "You c'n tell no one o' this, save yer eldest son. He too will be given to th' Promise and trained in its ways."
Saraich looked at him. "An' wha' if ah have a daughter instead?"
"Then ah'm lost," Dalin said cryptically. "An' th' Oath is null."
Saraich steeled herself. "All righ' then...what do I do now?"
"Go an' await orders," Dalin told her. "They could come a' any time, to do anything." He looked at her pointedly. "Anything. Which ye will do withou' question."
Saraich felt the bottom of her stomach give out. "Can...can ah keep workin' at th' Wisps an' Spirits in th' meantime, when ah'm not...doin' as th' King commands?"
"Of course. N'fact, tha' will be very useful," Dalin said, and Saraich sighed in relief. "Bu' remember, above all, yer loyalty is now to th' Oath, whatever tha' may bring."
Saraich nodded. "Wha'...wha' should ah do first?"
"Ye'll report ta mehself directly. Given yer current level of strength...hmm. There's a red crystal in Darkshore. Go investigate i', an repor' back ta meh," Dalin said. "An' as fer meh, now tha' th' Promise has been revived, ah've a lo' of work ta do." He sat on the bed, looking his age, worried and forlorn.
Saraich watched him for a moment, then took his hands. "Dalin...thank ye," she said, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
Dalin nodded at her. "Go now an' claim th' Reward of yer Promise, the man wi' th' Beard of Flame."
Saraich took a last look at him and then sunk to her knee. "Ah do as ye command."