Widge Gearloose: Son of Gnomeregan

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Widge Gearloose: Son of Gnomeregan

Post by Widge » 12 Nov 2004 09:05 pm

Prologue: The Fury of a Gnome

We should have asked for help.

Looking back, it's easy to make that call now. If we had only enlisted the aid of our allies, they might have been able to help us come up with another option. We might have been able to avoid the horrible catastrophe that followed. I might have been able to spend the rest of my days happily with my wife, instead of alone in the snow with nothing but revenge to keep me warm.

But we didn't ask for help. Our leaders made the decision, and we all agreed with their ruling. Gnomeregan was the responsibility of the Gnomes. We had our pride, after all, and besides, the Dwarves and Humans had their hands full with the Legion. No, we were confident that we could solve our own problems, protect our own people, clean up our own mess.

We were wrong.

Little is clear in my mind regarding the days immediately following the Disaster. I vaguely recall dragging the unconcious body of Moline into Razzle's workshop in Kharanos, before promptly collapsing myself. I remember trying desperately for weeks to nurse her back to health while her condition steadily deteriorated. I remember looking on helplessly as the strange sickness consumed my beloved wife and she rapidly drifted toward madness.

One memory of those days, however, remains crystal clear in my mind, no matter how hard I try to forget. A deranged woman I barely recognize holds a knife to my neck, screaming incoherent curses as she attempts to slit my throat. A dedicated Mountaineer aims his shotgun at her head, demanding that she release me. The pain of the steel cutting into my flesh. The sharp crack of the rifle. The shocked expression on the face of the woman who had once been my wife as her body falls to the ground...

A life ended that day in Kharanos, but it wasn't Moline's. She died on the day of the Disaster in Gnomeregan, along with all the others that were turned into the horrific, mindless abominations that now inhabit our ruined city. No, it was the life of a silly little Gnome who aspired to nothing greater than to be a good husband and a passable engineer. A shy, quiet guy who dreamed of living out his life peacefully, surrounded by family and friends.

That life is now over. Today my dreams are of payback. Of reciprocity. Of acquiring the power necessary to ensure that those who stole my life from me are made to pay. The Troggs, the Horde, the Legion... the list of responsible parties is endless.

So is my patience.
Last edited by Widge on 20 Jan 2006 10:33 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Part I: Second Chances

Post by Widge » 16 Nov 2004 12:44 pm

Widge Gearloose took another swig of Dwarven Ale. Despite his initial protestations to the barmaid regarding the establishment's distinct lack of Gnomish Spirits, he still managed to put away enough of the stuff to have given even the stoutest Dwarf pause.

As he stared down at the table lost in his thoughts, a strong hand suddenly clamped down on his shoulder, startling him from his brooding. "How ya doin', old timer?" asked a familar voice.

Widge turned around to see a grizzled old Dwarf grinning at him from behind a fiery red beard. "Sten!" he exclaimed as hopped to his feet and shook his visitor's hand. "What are you doing here? Didn't think they let you out of Coldridge."

"Aye, I stay pretty busy," the Dwarf replied. "Gotta stretch my legs from time to time though. Was just in the city for some supplies and I heard some cantankerous old coot was in here givin' the ladies trouble."

Widge saw through the facade immediately. Sten Stoutarm was many things, but a good liar he was not. He was here to check up on his friend, of that the Gnome was certain. "Nah, I just wish there was something better to be had than this swill," was all he said aloud.

"Bah!" Sten roared. "That there's some of the finest ale this side of Khaz Modan. Gnomes! You wouldn't know a good brew if it came up and bit ya!"

Widge chuckled. If there was one thing the Dwarves took seriously, it was their drink. He watched his friend carefully as he took a seat and ordered himself a mug. The Dwarf was uncomfortable about something, that much was clear. Maybe he hadn't come to check up on him, maybe it was more than that.

The two drank a bit and chatted about inconsequential things for awhile until Widge could bear the waiting no more. "So why are you really here?" he finally asked. "We both know that when you need supplies you just send one of the new recruits out. You checking up on me?"

Stoutarm smiled. "I suppose I should just get right down to it," he admitted. He reched into his jacket and produced a letter, which he handed to the Gnome. "A friend of mine was askin' about you," he explained. "Musta caught sight of you the last time you were in the valley. Anyway, he figured I'd have a way of getting in touch with you, and he wanted me to give you this."

Widge turned the letter over in his hands, more of a memo really, and examined the glyphs inscribed upon it. "Marryk Nurribit?" he asked.

"Aye," Sten replied. "Bit of a scholar around Anvilmar. Eccentric fella, but then look who I'm talkin' to."

Widge scanned the note. "New students of the arcane arts?" he asked. "Who said I was interested in becoming a student?"

"Well," the Dwarf began, "I remember you mentioning you were an apprentice as a lad, and after seeing you take care of those wolves, I just thought..."

Widge cut him off. "You thought what? That now that my life was empty, I might need something 'fulfilling' to occupy my time?"

This seemed to be a common sentiment among the old Gnome's friends and family, and it was really beginning to annoy him. Everybody thought that they had the solution for him. Take up a hobby, do some exploring, dabble in the mystic arts! Why couldn't they just accept the fact that all he wanted was to be left alone?

"I just worry about you, is all," Stoutarm replied. "I guess this just seemed like a good opportunity for you to do something..." he trailed off as he realized he was about to say "fulfilling."

"Look, there's nothing for you to worry about," Widge said sharply. "Everything's fine, and I'm old enough to take care of myself."

"Aye," the Dwarf laughed. "If you call drowning your sorrows in ale taking care of yourself, then I s'pose you're doin' a great job."

At that, Widge rose from his chair angrily, knocking over his mug in the process and soaking both the table and his companion in ale. "Listen, I don't want your advice or your help!" he shouted. "I didn't ask for it and I don't need it. I just want to be left alone!"

Sten opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it. Instead he just stood up. "Y'know what? That's fine. I done my part. I brought you the note. Whatcha do now is up to you."

Widge felt a pang of guilt as he watched the Dwarf walk away. No matter how he felt about his privacy, that was no way to treat a friend and he knew it.

He tossed some coins on the table to cover the drink and the mess and left the inn. There was certainly some truth to Stoutarm's words, he finally admitted to himself. The life that he'd been leading for the past few years was hardly a life at all. Still, what exactly did he have to live for? The only person he'd ever truly cared about had been taken away from him. The only life he'd ever known had been hopelessly destroyed.

As that familiar feeling of despair and anger began to well up inside him, Widge realized that he still had the glyphic memorandum clutched in his hand. He smoothed it out and gave it another look.

To: New Students of the Arcane Arts:
You are required to seek out and study under the Gnome Marryk Nurribit until such time comes that you are called upon to aid your people in re-establishing themselves in a new habitation. Please, without trepidation, prepare yourself for rigorous testing procedures and a difficult acclimation process as you find a domicile and/or any form of companionship with the local denizens.

Questions regarding your duties and abilities should be directed to Marryk Nurribit.

Widge thought it over for awhile. He had always regretted not taking his apprenticeship to the next level. Perhaps Sten was right.

Maybe it was time for something different...
Last edited by Widge on 20 Jan 2006 10:33 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Part II: Glyphic Memorandum

Post by Widge » 08 Mar 2005 08:36 am

Widge stood before the entrance to Anvilmar and took a deep breath. It had been over a week since Sten's visit, and he'd finally decided to heed his friend's advice. The journey here certainly hadn't been an easy one. Between the wild animals and the tunnel full of Troggs, the old gnome had to use every trick he had up his sleeve just to make it into Coldridge Valley in one piece.

He looked again at the Glyphic Memorandum that Sten had given him. He'd never heard of the mage that had written it, and really had no idea what he might be getting himself into. For all he knew, the whole thing could be some kind of scam. Still, if Stoutarm vouched for the guy, he had to be on the level.

"Hot! Get out of the way! Move it! Hot hot hot!" a voice from behind suddenly cried. Widge had barely enough time to step to the side before a young Dwarf came sprinting by, a steaming mug clutched in his hands.

The Gnome smiled to himself. It was nice to see that some things never changed around here.

Widge made his way to the rear of Anvilmar, where he was told he'd find Marryk Nurribit waiting. He walked down the steps into the small back room and saw a single gnome that matched the description Sten had given him sitting at a small wooden table. As he approached, the gnome looked up with wide eyes. "My, you're a tall one!" he exclaimed.

Widge just stared back, not quite sure how to respond. Suddenly the other gnome lept to his feet. "Oh, nevermind," he laughed. "Not that tall after all!"

"Are you Marryk Nurribit?" Widge asked, praying that the odd little man before him was not the one he sought.

"That's right! Though you can call me Master Nurribit, if you don't mind. Yes sir, we've got a lot to do, come on let's get going gotta get right to it!" he said as he began to walk away.

"What? Hey, where are you going?" Widge shouted as he ran after the mage. "I haven't even introduced myself!"

"I know who you are, Gearloose," Marryk responded without slowing down. "Got the spark, you sure do. You'll do nicely, if I do say so myself. Whoops, sorry Felix!" he apologized as he nearly tripped over another gnome on the way out of Anvilmar.

"What spark?" Widge demanded as he hurried to keep up. "Hey, could you slow down a bit? Come on, where are you going? I thought you were going to... I don't know, interview me or something."

"No need," Marryk replied as he trudged out into the snow. "I know what I need to know. You'll do fine. Gotta get started though, the sooner the better."

"Started with what?" Widge asked as he came to a stop. Marryk kept on walking. "Listen, I'm not sure I'm even interested in training," he called after him. "I just thought I'd come meet with you and we could..." he stopped as Marryk suddenly spun around holding a dagger that Widge didn't even see him draw and, screaming like a crazy man, started running right at him.

Instinctively, Widge raised his hands in a defensive position and began reciting the words of power that he'd learned as a boy. Flames began to dance around his fingertips as a small fireball coalesced before him. He didn't know what he'd done to provoke the other gnome, but he wasn't about to waste time finding out. The spell completed, he hurled the ball of fire at his attacker.

Or at least at the space that the mage had occupied.

"Yep yep, definitely got the spark," came the instructor's voice from behind him.

Widge whirled around to see Marryk standing there, unharmed, with that bizarre look in his eyes. "Didn't mean to scare ya, just had to see for myself. Man, you're quick that's for sure. Quick for an untrained old fella anyway. Woulda burned me alive, I'll bet."

Widge just stood there, both confused and amazed. He'd never seen anybody disappear like that before. "How did you..." he began.

Marryk laughed. "Liked that trick, did ya? Well that's just the kind of thing I'm gonna teach you," he said as he began to walk away again. "Got a lot to learn before then though, an awful lot. Gotta get started."

Widge stood for a moment, not sure what to make of this guy. Gnomes were known for being a bit eccentric, but Marryk seemed downright insane. Finally he sighed with resignation and ran to catch up with his new teacher. He was here to learn, after all, and at the very least, the mage seemed to have some talent and was willing to pass it on. Widge had the feeling that if he managed to survive his training under this nut, he just might learn a thing or two...
Last edited by Widge on 24 Jan 2006 01:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Part III: Frostmane Hold

Post by Widge » 20 Jan 2006 10:20 am

"When am I going to learn to say no to people," Widge grumbled to himself as he trudged through the icy cave. "It's not that hard, is it? 'Hey Gnome, why don't you go poke around a troll-infested cave for me and kill some of 'em while you're at it?' 'No thank you!' See? Easy!"

The old gnome pulled his cloak tight around him as a gust of cold air blew through the cave. "Stupid favors for stupid old friends. Who needs friends anyway?" he continued to mutter. He was so absorbed with his self-pitying that he didn't even notice the headhunter sneaking up on him until he saw its reflection in the icy cave wall.

"Nice try!" Widge yelled as he made a quick gesture, calling upon the power of frost to subdue his would be attacker. The troll howled in anger as ice crystals instantly formed around its feet, binding it to the cave floor. Widge quickly backed away, already beginning to cast his next spell. The troll, unfortunately, had other ideas. With unnatural speed it pulled a spear seemingly from nowhere and hurled it at the mage. Widge tried his best to move out of the way but the projectile was moving too fast. A second later he found himself on his back, a searing pain in his shoulder.

Through the haze of blinding pain Widge could make out the troll grinning as it advanced toward him, the icy enchantment that had bound it already broken. Widge lowered his head and began muttering something under his breath.

"Praying, gnome?" he heard the troll taunt in broken common. The creature let out a cruel laugh as it approached the gnome. "Nobody save you now. I'm gonna turn you into mojo."

"I don't think so," Widge replied as he finished his incantation. He trust his hand forward and a ball of fire emerged from his outstretched palm, sailing directly toward his assailant. As close as it was, the troll didn't even have time to attempt escape. The fireball connected, knocking it to the ground with a smoldering hole in the middle of its chest.

Widge winced in pain as he attempted to drag himself away from the corpse of the burning troll. The spear hadn't gone all the way through his shoulder, but it was buried pretty deep, and he was afriad that if he pulled it out he'd bleed to death before he managed to find help. "Last time I go 'poking around' a troll cave..." he gasped as he attempted to pull himself to his feet.

"You got that right," came an angry voice from behind. Before the gnome could react, a three-fingered hand had grabbed him roughly around the neck and lifted him to his feet. Widge struggled to breathe, desperately trying to think of a nonverbal spell that would get him out of this, but between the pain in his shoulder and the lack of oxygen, all he could think of was how disappointing it was to die in such a miserable place.

As Widge's vision began to darknen, the troll suddenly loosened its grip. The gnome slumped to his knees, gasping for breath. Guess he's decided to have some fun before he finishes me, he thought to himself. Gotta make sure he doesn't get the chance.

With his last ounce of strength, the mage spun around to face his attacker, the arcane words that would turn the troll into a harmless sheep on the tip of his tongue.

But what he saw made him choke back the words in surprise. The troll was laying on the ground in a pool of its own blood, the blade of an axe embedded in its skull. Above the corpse stood a mail-clad warrior, no taller than Widge himself, face obscured by a heavy helmet.

As Widge got over his shock, he managed to awkwardly bow before the other gnome. "My deepest thanks," he said breathlessly, still hungrily gulping as much air as he could.

The warrior nodded as he bent down to retrieve his axe from the troll's head. As he did, Widge saw another of the wretched creatures lurking behind his hero. Before he even had time to shout out a warning, however, the other gnome had ripped his weapon from the fallen troll and whirled around, axe extended, with enough force to cleave the new addition in two.

Widge had never witnessed such reflexes in his life. "That was... nice..." he stammered as what he had seen registered. The warrior nodded once again, and seemed to consider Widge for a moment. Then, without warning, he reached out and yanked the spear from the gnome's shoulder.

Widge screamed in agony as he fell to the ground. "Why..." was all he could get out, his voice barely a whisper. Still silent, the warrior knelt beside him and held a bottle full of red liquid to the mage's lips. Widge felt a tingling sensation as the potion ran down his throat, and as he drained the bottle the pain in his shoulder slowly began to fade until at last it was nothing more than a dull ache. When the bottle was empty, the warrior stood and held out his hand.

"You could have given me some warning," Widge grunted angrily as he gingerly touched the spot where the wound had been, now nothing more than a bruise. "Not that I'm not grateful," he quickly added.

As the good samaritan helped him to his feet, Widge noticed the glint of something familiar around the other gnome's neck. "Is that..." he began as he took a closer look. It was a bejeweled pendant in the shape of a gear. Widge knew it all too well, as an identical amulet hung around his own neck, a gift from his great-grandfather. There were a number of them in existance, but only members of his family possessed them, and they took them to the grave.

"Where did you get this?" the old mage demanded as he grabbed the amulet.

The armored gnome stood silently for a moment and finally sighed. Reluctantly, he reached up and began to remove his helmet.

When the face of his mystery hero was finally revealed, Widge let go of the glittering gear and took a step back in surprise. The gnome he found himself staring at was quite possibly the last person he ever expected to see in this situation. His own daughter.

"Gadget?!" he exclaimed. "What in blazes are you doing here?"

"Saving your life, old man," came the snappy reply. "And don't call me Gadget!"

Widge sighed. Gadget was the name his daughter had been given at birth, after his wife's grandmother. When Gnomes come of age, however, it's expected of them to invent a new name for themselves.

Unfortunately his daughter's childhood ended with the Gnomeregan Disaster and the death of her mother. In honor of the woman that she respected most in the world, Gadget took her name as the one that she would carry with her through adulthood. Widge had tried to explain to her that the name she took was to be one that represented her best and belonged to her alone, but "Moline" wouldn't have it. The death of her mother had been a terrible ordeal and this was her way of coping. Still, Widge had never been able to bring himself to address her by her chosen name.

Dropping the subject for the time being, Widge returned to fuming. "I can't believe you're putting youself in this kind of danger. All by yourself in a cave full of trolls, what were you thinking?" he demanded.

"Look who's talking!" she returned. "Look, in case you haven't noticed, I can take care of myself. Heck, I can take care of you! I'm not a child anymore."

Widge's anger was quickly replaced with sadness. After seeing how she'd handled herself, it was obvious that she was right. His daughter wasn't a child anymore, and perhaps that's what had him so upset. He knew that his son was out there somewhere, fully grown and lurking about with all sorts of ill-reputed characters, he certainly didn't need his father anymore. Now it looked like Moline -- the name really was her choice, he supposed -- didn't have much use for him either. Still, growing up was what children did and he couldn't deny his daughter her own life even if he wanted to.

The old gnome sighed once again. "I suppose you're not," he conceded.

"You're damn right I'm... wait... what?" Moline stumbled, surprised that her usually bull-headed father would relent so easily.

"You handled yourself beautifully back there. I was... well, I was really impressed. I had always hoped that at least one of my children would follow in my footsteps and become the mage that I could never be. After seeing what you can do with that axe though, well I'm just glad that you've found something you're good at."

Moline smiled. Maybe she wasn't the only one who had changed. "Thanks, that means alot to me," she said. "And you know, for what it's worth, I don't think it's too late for you to be the mage that you always wanted to be."

Widge shrugged. "We'll see, I suppose. Now what do you say to getting out of this place. I'm surprised the other trolls haven't come to see what's become of their friends while we've been standing here chatting."

"Oh I wouldn't concern yourself too much with that," Moline replied with a grin.

. . .

The trip out of Frostmane Hold had been an uneventful one, with all the trolls that might have caused them trouble having been either hacked to bits or burned to a crisp during Widge and Moline's respective journeys into the cave. Father and daughter had a lot of catching up to do, as neither had really spoken to the other since shortly after the Disaster. Widge was noticeably proud of his daughter's accomplishments as a warrior, and Moline seemed equally impressed by the fact that her father had finally chosen to continue his training.

When at last the pair returned the Kharanos, Widge immediately proceeded to give his report to the dwarf that had sent him to that blasted place.

"Hey Widge! Did you find the cave?" Senir Whitebeard called out as the gnome approached.

Widge glared at the dwarf. "Oh I found it all right," was all he said.

"Crawling with trolls, wasn't it?" he nodded. "You take care of them?"

"We did," said Moline from over Widge's shoulder.

"Ah! So you found your dad after all," Senir smiled as he noticed the little warrior. "Thought ya might be able to use some help in there Widge," he said to the mage, "so when I saw Moline here in Kharanos I figured I'd send her on the same mission."

The dwarf sat down and began scribbling on a parchment. "Now if you could just do me one more favor," he began as he filled out his report.

"No!" Widge stated emphatically. "No more favors! No caves full of trolls or trogg encampments or dragon nests, nothing. I just want to relax for a little while!"

Senir looked up at the gnome and grinned, "No no, nothing like that old fella, just need you to take this report on up to Ironforge for me. If you're planning on taking it easy, that's probably where you're headed anyway, am I right?"

Widge sighed. "I suppose."

"Excellent!" the dwarf exclaimed as he sealed the report and handed it to the gnome. "Take my report to Senator Barin Redstone then. He's a sour type, so don't let his less-than-sunny disposition get to you."

Widge rolled his eyes. He'd rather go back to the troll cave than deal with Redstone.

"We'll do it!" Moline said excitedly, thrilled at the prospect of getting to see King Magni Bronzebeard's court.

Widge said nothing as Senir handed him the report. "Looks like your wardrobe's seen better days," he said thoughtfully, pointing out the huge tear in the fabric at Widge's shoulder. He disappeared into his wagon for a moment and returned with a clean white robe. "Here you go, a small token of my appreciation," he said as he handed a warm winter robe to Widge. "And for you, little one," he added, holding a shield out to Moline.

"Thanks!" she said, taking the gift. Widge wondered how she'd ever get a chance to use it, needing both hands to swing that massive axe of hers, but he didn't say anything in front of Senir.

"All right then," the dwarf said. "Bring that report to Redstone and I won't ask you for any more favors, I promise." He paused for a moment and then added, "And you know, that robe might be a bit too big for you. Why don't you stop by the Ironforge Armory over by the bank when you're done at the High Seat. Raena can make some alterations, probably free of charge if you tell her I sent you."

Widge examined the dwarf-size robe and nodded. "Good idea," he said. He stuffed the robe in his pack and shook hands with Whitebeard. "Thanks alot, Senir. We'll see you around," he said.

"See ya soon!" the dwarf grinned as the two gnomes turned and headed toward Ironforge. He smiled to himself as he returned to his work. Telling Raena Flinthammer that Senir sent him would probably get the mage free alterations, he was sure, but more importantly it would alert her husband Mangorn that the two would make good additions to his cousin's militia. Senir knew Widge Gearloose well enough to know that despite what he had said, relaxing was the furthest thing from his mind. The old gnome wanted to take back Gnomeregan, and joining up with a group dedicated to protecting Dun Morogh at all costs was just what he needed to work toward that goal.

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Part IV: Sawed Off

Post by Widge » 03 Nov 2006 12:04 pm

"Well sure, I oughta be able to take this in a bit for you," Raena Flinthammer assured Widge as she examined the robe. "Whitebeard did good sending you to me." She pulled out a length of ribbon and quickly took the gnome's measurements. "Let me see what I can do," she said as she headed toward the stairs.

"You should see if she's got a hat you can use to cover up that big bald head of yours too," Moline said playfully.

"Quiet, you!" Widge shot back. Admitting to himself that he could probably use something to help stay warm out in the snowy peaks of Dun Morogh however, he took a look around the shop to see if there was anything appropriate. As he surveyed the offerings, he noticed that the other shopkeeper was staring intently in the direction of the gnomes.

"Erm, hi there!" Widge said as the dwarf met his gaze.

"How are ya," the man said gruffly as he approached and extended his hand. "Mangorn Flinthammer, Raena's husband," he said by way of introduction. "You say your name's Gearloose?"

"That's correct," Widge replied. "Widge Gearlose. This is my daughter, Ga... uhh, Moline," he added, putting his hand on the young gnome's shoulder.

"Glad to meet you," Mangorn smiled, shaking the girl's hand. "So did I hear you tell Raena you tore up that robe in a tussle with some trolls?" the dwarf asked, turning back to Widge.

The mage nodded glumly. "Guess I wasn't as careful as I should have been."

Mangorn laughed. "Well don't be too hard on yourself lad, you did all right it seems, coming back in one piece and all."

"Well, it wasn't all me..." Widge admitted sheepishly.

"Aye!" Mangorn smiled at Moline. "Sounds like Senir sent this one to help you out, got a real fiesty one there!" he laughed.

A moment later a dwarven couple entered the store. "'Scuse me for a minute," Mangorn told the gnomes as he turned to take care of his customers.

Moline sighed. "Why do they always have to call me 'fiesty' or 'spunky?'" she muttered after the shopkeeper was out of earshot. "A dwarf woman would give you a punch in the eye for saying something like that!"

Widge smiled. "Don't take it personally. Any gnome that's not tinkering with something or doesn't have their head buried in a book is a bit of a curiosity to outsiders."

As Mangorn and his male customer chatted at the counter, the female wandered over in the gnomes' direction to examine some bolts of cloth that hung nearby. She seemed familiar somehow, and Widge studied her intently wondering where he might have seen her before. His musings were quickly interrupted however, as his daughter, the formidable warrior he had watched viciously cleave a troll in two, squealed with delight. "Oh, how cute!" she exclaimed as she noticed a fluffy black and white bear of some sort trailing behind the woman.

"Gadget..." Widge began as the girl bent down to pat the cub.

"No, it's okay," the woman assured him. "I'm used to this little guy attracting attention. He sure doesn't mind it either," she smiled as the bear rolled over to allow Moline to rub his belly.

"What's his name?" Moline asked as the bear closed its eyes and growled softly, almost purring like a kitten.

The dwarf shrugged. "Belongs to me husband," she said, gesturing to her companion. "Doesn't seem to have made up his mind yet."

Suddenly it dawned on Widge. The princess! It had been a few years since he'd last seen her royal highness, but the dwarf standing before him was the spitting image of Princess Moira Bronzebeard, albeit not as well dressed. Since there hadn't been a celebration heralding the return of the missing noble he was fairly certain that this wasn't her, but the resemblance was uncanny.

Just then Raena returned from upstairs with Widge's robe. "Well I think this should do nicely for you Mister Gearloose," she said as she handed it over to him. "No, no need to pay me for this," she added hastily as Widge fumbled with his coin purse. "Wasn't much work at all, and what you did for Senir is payment enough, keepin' Dun Morogh safe."

The gnome's cheeks reddened a bit at this but he smiled and thanked the woman. "I guess we'll be going then," he said, mostly for the benefit of Moline who was still playing with the bear cub.

"Just a minute there," Mangorn said as he and the other dwarf walked toward them. "I've got somebody here who'd like to meet you."

Widge evaluated the newcomer cautiously, wondering what he could possibly want with him. The grey-bearded dwarf looked to be fairly young, at least compared to the gnome, but he was clearly a seasoned mountaineer and he had the eyes of a hunter considering his prey. Widge wondered just what the dwarf was seeing as he sized up the old mage.

"Ringo Flinthammer," the dwarf said offering his hand.

"Pleased to meet you," Widge replied as he shook the dwarf's hand. "I'm Widge Gearloose, this is my daughter Moline."

"Quite the solider, that one," Mangorn said to Ringo. "Got a big axe and everything."

"Peculiar..." was all Ringo said, prompting an indignant squeak from Moline. "Er, no offense there lass," he added quickly. "Anyway, looks like you've already met my wife Beli," he said indicating the woman with the bear, who smiled and shook hands with Widge and Moline.

"So Gearloose, eh? Any relation to Toggin?" Ringo asked Widge after the introductions were complete.

Widge nodded. "He was my grandfather."

"Is that so," the dwarf said thoughtfully. "Well Widge Gearloose, I've got a proposition for you. We're trying to form a militia and it sounds like you're just the sort we want. It's high time we chased all these troggs and trolls and other bastards away from the mountain and took back Khaz Modan. I got some good dwarves and gnomes signed up already, only need a few more to make it official."

Widge studied the dwarf. "A militia, sir?" he asked. "Driving all those miscreants out would take an army."

"Gotta start somewhere," Ringo said with a gleam in his eye. "It's gonna take work and it's gonna take time, I won't tell you any different. But I aim to make this place safe for our people again. From what I understand you got the same thing in mind."

Widge thought about this for a moment. "What about Gnomeregan?" he finally asked.

"Oh aye," Ringo replied. "Getting that city back in the hands of its people is important for all of Khaz Modan, dwarves and gnomes alike. Not that I don't mind sharing Ironforge with you folks, of course," he added with a smile.

Widge nodded. The dwarves had certainly made his people feel welcome in their home, but it was still their home. As pleasant as Tinker Town was, it wasn't Gnomeregan.

The old mage considered the dwarf's invitation. His studies were certainly coming along nicely, and what better way to put his newfound skills in the mystic arts to work than by using them to defend Khaz Modan. Perhaps one day he could even return to Gnomeregan with a band of gnomes and dwarves and drive out every last trogg, maybe even find a way to save the mutated lepers that remained in the city. It was a dream, to be sure, but any dream worth having was a dream worth fighting for.

The determination that Widge saw in Ringo's eyes was enough to make up his mind. It seemed bizarre, joining up with a stranger and his militia out of the blue, but then bizarre was the story of his life since the world had turned upside-down. If this dwarf was willing to put his life on the line not only for his own people, but Widge's too, how could he ask any less of himself?

"So what say you?" Ringo asked. "Can we count on you and your daughter here to lend your talents toward defending the mountain?"

Widge smiled. "Where do I sign?"

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