I was a conscript.
Oh, sure, technically the Alliance didn’t conscript anyone. Legally, everyone was recruited of their own free will.
It was never a question whether I would sign up for the North War. My father did not say to me, “Have you considered signing up with the Alliance?” My friends did not say to me, “Hey, you going to join that anti-scourge thing?”
No, I never had a real choice. It was a question of when I would join. It was simply expected of me. Of course I would join the war effort. I was a good son, wasn’t I? I was a good dwarf, wasn’t I? I was a good husband, wasn’t I?
My friends had all signed up. They would discuss typical army things, the hot young sergeant, how fetching the General Freewhistle was in her pigtails, the new standard issue hammers they were using this year.
My father would recount the glory days of his early battles against the Horde. How he was too old now to go wage war on the Scourge, but how proud he was of me for upholding the family honor. How proud he was of his son, the good dwarf.
They were all convinced I would go. None of them could even understand that I wouldn’t want to go, that leaving my Esme behind to go fight some war on some fucking continent who the fuck knows how far away to fight some enemy I’d never even seen.
I was a dwarf. The very idea that I could possibly shirk my duty as a dwarf was absolutely unthinkable.
Bless Esme. Bless her eternally. She was the only one who understood. She wanted me to stay. She needed me to stay. She begged me. She dropped to her knees and begged me not to go.
And damn me to whatever horrific realm will provide my just punishment for spewing the same goat shit to her.
I had to do my duty as a dwarf, I told her. I was a free, thinking being, I could make my own decisions, she said.
I had to do my duty to Ironforge, I told her. Carry your duty out here, build homes, build weapons, she begged.
I had to do my duty for my family, I told her. Your family stands before you, she cried.
She was pregnant.
What a great fucking time to drop that particular piece of information.
I told everyone that my wife was with child. Oh, the joy, the celebration. Drinks all around for the brave soldier boy, going off to war to fight for his child! Maybe I could bring back a little trophy for the wee lad or lass after the war!
I delayed as long as I could. Said I had business to take care off before I left. Said I had to get my affairs in order, make sure Esme could survive well without me. Suspicious looks. My family came around more often, became more insistent that they help me with whatever business I had left.
So I left.
What kind of dwarf abandons his family.
That was the last thing she said to me.
I was a blacksmith by trade. I had worked with hammers and metals all my life, even becoming an apprentice on the Great Forge itself. I was strong as a bear and twice as tough.
A perfect match for the front lines.
You know, looking back, pretty much every battle is the same.
You find yourself, warhammer in one hand, shield in the other, endless waves of stinking, rotting flesh bearing down at you, and you hope to whatever fucking gods are listening that you don’t get reanimated into one of them when you die.
Here’s where you’d expect some sort of emotional twist. Maybe I was at Wrathgate, maybe I died there. Maybe my last thought was of Esme. My last emotion the utter despair that comes from betraying the only being that understands.
Maybe I died elsewhere, one of countless foot soldiers annihilated in who knows how many battles. Maybe I was raised, turned into a ghoul, maybe my body was simply stitched into an abomination. Maybe I was lucky, becoming a Death Knight.
Wouldn’t that have been glorious.
Any member of the Alliance who surrenders willingly to the Horde is dishonorably discharged and sent home in disgrace. Fortune and gold smile upon whatever motherfucker came up with that ridiculous policy.
The orc guards at Warsong Hold had no idea what to do with me. I was the first, you see. The first one to just throw down my sword and shield, strip off my armor, and surrender myself to those savages.
Savages. Goat shit. You know what they did with me? They stuck me in a pen with the boars to keep me warm. A shaman came by to make sure I was fed properly. Then a heavily armed troll warrior escorted me back to Alliance lines, making absolutely sure I survived the trip.
We were attacked by wolves at one point. The troll could’ve just let me die. Let the wolves eat my corpse, then reported whatever the fuck he wanted to his superiors. Instead, he just leaps off his raptor and lays into them. Kills five of them without even seeming to try.
Then he just gets back up on his raptor, and we carry on like nothing happened. Savages. Fuck.
The Alliance didn’t even give me so much as a blanket. I was fed only when the sailors remembered to send some scraps my way. My living quarters amounted to a discarded ammunition box on the trip to Stormwind.
One good thing about Dwarven culture. We never talk about things. We just pretend that nothing’s wrong, go about our daily business. The draenei have a saying for it, something about the Elekk in the room.
My family never talks about it. Everyone knows. Everyone knows about the blacksmith who surrendered. But no one says anything. Everyone just acts polite, as if nothing is amiss. I can still feel it, the disappointment.
I’m not allowed anywhere near the Great Forge. I get very little work. I’m barely a blacksmith at all. My earnings hardly surpass that of a street beggar. No one will even deign to make eye contact with me in public.
None of that fucking matters.
I’m here for Esme. I’m a father. I have a son.
All those sidelong glances? All that shame they think I’m enduring? Absolutely none of that matters even half a shit when he smiles at me.